Hidden Data

June 4, 2009

What's with the conflicting numbers coming from the CNMI regarding how many foreign contract workers are actually present in the CNMI? At the May 19, 2009 Oversight Hearing, Chamber President Jim Arenovski stated that there are approximately 18,000; the Governor said 16,000; and the Department of Labor stated 16,755 as of September 2008. This figure was quoted on page 4 of the Declaration of Jacinta Kaipat (Part 1) submitted to back the anti-federalization federal court case. Then there is that figure from DOL's Annual Report saying 22,917 permits had been issued in 2008.

What are the actual figures for the number of foreign contract workers in the CNMI during 2008? What are the numbers today? Shouldn't any immigration tracking system be able to produce such data?

According to DOL's 2008 Annual Report, the tracking system, LIIDS (Labor and Immigration Identifications System), was transferred from the Division of Immigration to DOL:
LIIDS, Transfer to Labor: The Department implemented Executive Order 2008-18 on November 1, 2008 and transferred the employees of the former LIIDS Section of the Immigration Division to the re-named LIDS (Labor Identification System) Section of the Department supervised by the Deputy Secretary.
Interesting. The Saipan Tribune story states that the system was transferred to the DOL in "the interest of efficient administration":
Fitial, in an Oct. 17 executive order, transferred the CNMI's labor and immigration identification and documentation system from the Division of Immigration to the Labor Department. More commonly known as LIIDS section, the agency in charge of keeping track of guest workers in the CNMI will now be called the Employment Data Section.

Under the governor's order, the EDS will also maintain the border management system for the Division of Immigration for as long as the CNMI government is in control of local immigration functions. The border management system is an automated program that generates a record of all entries to and exits from the Commonwealth.

The governor said the transfer is done in the interest of efficient administration. He noted that the Labor Department recently upgraded its automated processing system and completed its interactive website. The new system is tightly integrated with the data collection and processing currently done by LIIDS.
It is not "efficient administration" if those in running the system cannot disseminate required data. In fact, there appears to be less valuable data coming out of the system than before it was moved.

The article continued:
“This is just internal reorganization effort. The governor believes it is more appropriate to put Labor in charge of the database, given its duties and responsibilities with respect to the foreign workers,” said press secretary Charles P. Reyes Jr.

According to the executive order, all of LIIDS' equipment and data files will be transferred to the Employment Data Section. The supervisor of the LIIDS section will remain in charge of the new agency. All LIIDS personnel who can legally transfer to the Labor Department will also remain employed in their current positions.

The executive order also calls for the transfer of the LIIDS' budget allocation to the new section. However, it says the governor reserves the authority to make personnel-related decisions.
Hmm. The governor made an executive order putting DOL, (the agency that has conspired with him on the anti-federalization lawsuit), in charge of the immigration tracking system. The order also renamed the system from the Labor and Immigration Identification System, LIIDS, to the Labor Identification System, LIDS. The executive order also states that the governor reserves the authority to "make personnel-related decisions." Does this means that he has control over the personnel who are in charge of the data for the purpose of manipulating or withholding information?

This is not the first executive order for LIDS, formerly called LIIDS. In August 2007 Governor Fitial made a previous executive order moving control of LIIDS from the Governor's Office to the Office of the Attorney General. The Saipan Tribune reported:
In his order, Fitial transferred LIIDS to the AGO's Division of Immigration for organizational purposes. But LIIDS will continue to provide resource data to the Department of Labor.

The governor also transferred all of this office's functions relating to certificates of identity or U.S. passports to the Immigration Division.

According to the governor, the change was necessary for efficient administration.

“The existence of a multitude of offices, agencies, and instrumentalities outside of the principal departments has resulted in duplication of functions, overlaps of responsibility, lack of coordination, and other forms of inefficient administration,” he said.
Also, in August 2007 Governor Fitial testified before the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs saying this about the LIIDS system (emphasis added):
The Commonwealth's commitment and institutional ability to maintain an effective system of immigration control is evidenced by its implementation of a computerized arrival and departure tracking system. Financed by the federal government, the Border Management System has been fully operational since 2003, with the entry and departure of each traveler recorded. The Commonwealth also operates the Labor and Immigration Identification System, which records the immigration entry permits to the various classes of immigrants entering the CNMI. We are currently reevaluating these computerized systems to determine whether their components should be updated or replaced to reflect the advances in technology over the past decade. Even within their limitations, however, these systems give local immigration officials controls that their federal counterparts do not have.
It was convicted felon, Mark Zachares, former Secretary of CNMI Labor and Immigration, who was the initial spokesman for LIIDS. Working under former Governor Froilan Tenorio. They claimed that the tracking system would stop the federal government from taking over immigration. From the Saipan Tribune:
Mark D. Zachares, secretary of the Department of Labor and Immigration, said the BMS is a final step of the immigration reforms implemented by the Tenorio administration.

The efforts are aimed at convincing the federal government that CNMI can handle its own labor and immigration laws as provided under the Covenant that established the islands as U.S. commonwealth.

"This system will be the envy in the Pacific... and around the world," the DOLI chief said during a demonstration of how the system works.

Accurate and faster.
...According to Mr. Zachares, the department will hook up with federal agencies, such as the Immigration and Naturalization Service, as well as Interpol to boost the ability of the CNMI to keep away undesirable aliens.

Because it also records departures, he said aliens who are overstaying can be traced easily and their number can be established much more accurately.

"We will be able to use it as an effective law enforcement tool," the DOLI secretary added.

Funded through a $1.5 million grant from the Office of Insular Affairs, the computerized tracking system is a component of LIIDS which the CNMI government vouched in 1995 to improve handling of local immigration.

Some U.S. lawmakers and federal officials have cited the archaic system at the ports of entry here as reason to extend federal immigration laws to the islands.
Looks like the expensive system is worthless. Meant to track incoming and outgoing aliens, no one in the Fitial Administration seems to be capable of consistently reporting on the data. It is obvious to me, that they do not want to report.

In February 2008 Governor Fitial made two announcements. The first announcement was that he appointed his niece, Cinta Kaipat as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Labor. The second announcement was that the government had upgraded the LIIDs system. From the Saipan Tribune:
Labor director Barry Hirshbein and other Labor officials demonstrated to the media yesterday how they upgraded the Labor and Immigration Identification System with the new installation of a new computer system.

After the demonstration, Labor Secretary Gil M. San Nicolas, Hirshbein, Kaipat, and other Labor officials joined the governor in the news briefing.

Fitial said it took two years for his administration to clean up the mess left over from past administrations.

The governor said with the new computer system the LIIDS system has been upgraded for the first time since 2000.

“We have new equipment and new software. The system came online last week. We recognize the hard work put up in by Tom Torres (LIIDS computer specialist 3) to make this happen and the able assistance of Ron Smith (web master),” Fitial said.
LIDS, formerly LIIDS, was meant to be a state of the art tracking system and was funded by federal money for the Department of Interiors Insular Affairs Office. So what happened? Does it have the capability of tracking the aliens, categorizing them and providing valuable data? Data like the data needed by DHS and DOI to formulate a report that is by law due to Congress by 2010 with recommendations on the status of the foreign workers?

The 2008 Annual Report contained this muddy statement:
The number of foreign national workers legally present: As of December 31, 2008, the Department had issued 22,917 permits during 2008 in the 706K (foreign worker) immigration category. (footnote 10) The Department counts only its administrative operations; it does not conduct any census of foreign workers
actually present in the Commonwealth. (footnote 11) The number of permits issued is greater than the number of workers present in the Commonwealth at any given point in a typical year because some permit actions are contract amendments or extensions and affect a single worker, some permit holders elect to leave the Commonwealth during the year for personal or employment reasons, some employers implement reductions in force and cancel their “issued” permits for some of their workers; some employers close their businesses entirely and their “issued” permits are cancelled by the Department; and other similar reasons.
Footnote 10: The Department’s published statistics show a total of 23,110 permits issued during 2008 in the 706K (private sector employment) and 706B (CNMI government employment) categories. During 2008, there were 193 permits issued in the 207B category. The remaining permits were in the 706K category.
Footnote 11: The taking of the census with respect to all categories of persons present in the Commonwealth, including foreign workers, is the responsibility of the U.S. Census Bureau.
When the Fitial Administration wants to shift responsibility or cover-up inept acts, it blames the federal government! Whatever the responsibility of the U.S. Census Bureau may be, that is not the issue. The issue is that PL 15-108, § 4970 requires specific annual reporting on data regarding the number of foreign contract workers employed in the Commonwealth during the year. That information was not included in the 2008 DOL Annual Report in violation of CNMI law.

From PL 15-108:
§ 4970. Required reports.
(a) The Secretary shall prepare and submit to the Governor and the presiding officers of the Legislature the following written reports:
(1) Within one hundred twenty (120) days of the end of the government fiscal year, the Secretary shall prepare an annual report including data regarding the number of foreign national workers employed in the Commonwealth during the year, the citizenship of the workers, the job classifications filled by the workers; data regarding the number of citizens and permanent residents employed in the Commonwealth during the year, the job classifications filled by these employees; and other information as appropriate.
DOL provided this information in 2007.  Why not in the 2008 Annual report? Is it because the statistics could actually help the DOI and DHS in preparing a report to make recommendations on permanent status for the foreign contract workers? The census data was not an issue in 2007. 

From this Saipan Tribune article published two years ago, June 1, 2007:
Thousands of foreign workers may be eligible for permanent residency under the CNMI immigration bill drafted by the federal government.

Data from the Labor and Immigration Identification System show that there are 7,944 guest workers who have been employed in the Commonwealth for five to nine consecutive years.

This figure was based on valid labor permits issued as of May 16, 2007, as well as labor applications pending review. The data did not include those who have worked in the CNMI for 10 years or more.

“That's a lot of workers,” press secretary Charles P. Reyes Jr. said of the figure. “Under the proposed federal law, they would be eligible for permanent residency, similar to the status enjoyed by people from the Federated States of Micronesia.”...

...According to LIIDS, there are 1,014 guest workers who have been on island for five years and 719 for six years. Nonresident workers who have stayed eight years total 4,871. Those who have had nine straight years of employment total 445.

Of the nearly 8,000 guest workers, 5,726 are from the Philippines. Some 1,266 are Chinese, 339 Thai, 150 Japanese, 146 Korean, 118 Bangladeshi, and 102 Nepalese. The 97 others are of different citizenships.
The emphasis was added to show that the LIIDS Sytem worked just fine in 2007. The data was specific.

Here is what PL 110-229 says is needed for the report to make recommendations:
“The Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Governor of the Commonwealth, shall report to the Congress not later than 2 years after the date of the enactment of the Northern Mariana Islands Immigration, Security, and Labor Act. The report shall include the number of aliens residing in the Commonwealth; a description of the legal status (under Federal law) of such aliens; in five year increments, the number of years each alien has been residing in the Commonwealth; the current and future requirements for the Commonwealth economy of an alien workforce; and recommendations to the Congress related to granting alien workers lawfully present in the Commonwealth on the date of the enactment of such Act United States citizenship or some other permanent legal status.”
LIDS, the federally funded CNMI tracking system, could provide much of the required information. The author of the mandated DOL 2008 Annual Report, whether Cinta Kaipat or Deanne Siemer, (the primary author of all of the DOL letters, reports, etc.) purposefully left out required data.  By the purposefully withholding this data, DOL is in violation of CNMI law, PL 15-108, § 4970.

Who has a responsibility to see that DOL complies with PL 15-108? The Acting Attorney General? Isn't it ironic that the "author" of PL 15-108 is violating the law? Who will stop the manipulation of facts, data and information that flow from this office?

Whatever else is in the regulations that DHS proposes for the transitional guest worker program, I hope they have sense enough to totally revamp the system and not just grant powers to the corrupt DOL officials to allow them to continue running the dysfunctional system.

©2009 W. L. Doromal


Anonymous said...

The different numbers are answers to different questions.

Some seekers want the total number of aliens, including investors, dependents, missionaries, what have you.

Others simply want the number of guest workers.

the teacher said...

I would guess that the above noni is correct. I don't know how many CGWs are here but there is another number which would include those operating businesses, freelancers, illegals, overstayers, those with bogus employers, employees of sham companies, and dependents of all of the above.

The bottom line is that the CNMI labor & immigration system is broken, corrupt, and is in desperate need of reform.

Saipan Writer said...

The LIIDS system, which is supposed to track actual people, does not seem to be working. We have no idea how many non-citizen people are actually here.

The report on permits issued shows numbers that do, at least, add up.
706 (K) [private sector employment] =22,917.
706B [government employment]= 193
Total "employment" permits-23,110.

Anonymous said...

Jane, Is 23k the total count for CGWs plus all others? Several counts are under 15k for CGws.

Anonymous said...

If LIIDS can work in 2007, it should be working in 2008. Was that federal funds that updated it? Why can't they program it to track the critical data?

Anonymous said...

Jane is correct. The only data that is somewhat reliable is number of "permits issued". This is not the same of actual number of persons. I am unsure of whether this is a cover up or truly an ESO (equipment superior to operator) issue.

Anonymous said...

If it was an ESO issue, could it be that the operator who was able to release the detailed 2007 data no longer is employed there? That only one person could get the information? Unlikely.

Why make claims that the CNMI has a state of the art tracking system in statements and reports?

Kaipat authored PL 15-108. Therefore the provision requiring the data to be included in DOL's annual report was authored by her. She should have known what information DOL could provide annually.

Anonymous said...

noni above, are you sure Kaipat authored PC 15-108?

Wendy said...

I don't think Cinta Kaipat authored PL 15-108 by herself. I am sure it was a collaboration -I heard by Kaipat, Seimer and Maya Kara. Since Kaipat claims credit as the author and is the main defender of the law, she should certainly know the contents.

Anonymous said...

Bending some rules ,such as not reporting the number of nonresident workers in 2008, has never been a problem for some people in this administration. I have no doubt that Mr. Per Diem and his "volunteer" wife are pulling the strings when it comes to not reporting the figures and other data that are needed to help the feds come up with a balanced immigration program for the CNMI.These two never cease to amaze/disgust me.