Walter L. Haith Field Office director for Guam and the CNMI of the U.S. Citizenship Immigration Services speaks to Conrad and Malou at the peaceful assembly. Photo by Itos Feliciano ©2009

May 18, 2009

While guest workers and families gathered at the TSL Plaza in Garapan, preparations for the Subcommittee Oversight Hearing were underway in Washington, DC.  Hundreds of letters from guest workers, nonresident, U.S. citizen children of nonresidents and resident-supporters will be delivered to the committee to be entered as testimony with my written testimony. The letters are passionate and paint a clear picture of the struggles of the nonresident as well as their many contributions to the CNMI. Generally the letters request green cards for the long term nonresidents that are in the CNMI.

Former DOI Assistant Deputy Secretary David Cohen said he will ask for green cards in testimony he will present tomorrow.

Guest workers who contacted me this morning were excited that Walter L. Haith Field Office director for Guam and the CNMI of the U.S. Citizenship Immigration Services spent time talking to the nonresidents. They said that his comments to the guest workers were positive. 

From the Saipan Tribune:
Although Walter L. Haith was seen talking to the worker groups, he said he is speaking on a person-to-person basis. Haith is the Field Office director for Guam and the CNMI of the U.S. Citizenship Immigration Services.

He said he can only make recommendations until November when the regulations for federalization will take place.

But he said in his personal capacity, he supports what the workers are doing.

“They have the right to do it. They are not disrupting the offices. It's a good start for them because even if they won't be able to get what they want, at least they are doing something and their voices are heard,” Haith said.
The peaceful assembly will continue outside the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices until Wednesday. Leaders of guest worker groups are encouraging people to stop by for however long they can. The vigil is 24 hours.

From the Marianas Variety:
Malou Berueco, one of the organizers of the rally, said “we are professionals who don’t want to appear dishonorable.”

She said the banners and streamers that were displayed do not carry derogatory or critical messages against anyone.

“We come here in a peaceful way to express our appeal,” she added.

Boni Sagana, Dekada Movement president, said the assembly was very peaceful.

Sagana said the gathering would be larger after office hours.

Rene Reyes, Coalition of United Workers leader, said they may seek assistance from the Philippine government to support their appeal.

He said their employment as guest workers in the CNMI will be affected by the implementation of the federalization law in November.

“I hope our president, even our senators, can help us appeal to the U.S. government to give nonresident guest workers an improved immigration status,” he said.

Rabby Syed, United Workers Movement president, said he opposes Gov. Benigno R. Fitial’s proposal to delay, this time for a year, the implementation of the federalization law.

“This is not good for the economy and the guest workers,” Syed said.

Villavicencio said their group has been receiving food and drinks from supporters, including businessmen and private individuals.
I will post links to the testimony on this site tomorrow.

Also, I will post more photos of the peaceful assembly taken this evening by Itos Feliciano (later!)