Grey and Baka Sued

















Press release from March 31, 1998 Marianas Variety quoting guest worker spokesman Mohammed F. Ahmed. (Click on image to enlarge.)

August 10, 2009

A case filed yesterday in the District Court of the Northern Marinas revealed alleged outrageous behavior of CNMI officials. If these allegations are true then they disclose what a disgusting, vindictive, unjust, dishonest, undemocratic, and un-American system exists in the CNMI. They confirm that the anti-federalization fighters will unjustly stick it to anyone who doesn't share their views. They demonstrate the underlying poison that permeates the CNMI immigration system. They show how far the Fitial Administration will go to attack employees of the Federal Ombudsman's Office.

Melvin Grey, Director of the CNMI Division of Immigration and Acting Attorney General Gregory Baka are being sued in federal court by Mr. Mohammed Feroj Ahmed who was denied entry of his wife from Bangladesh in what appears to be nothing more than a retaliatory act.

The 12-page complaint filed by attorney Mark Hanson, outlines Mr. Ahmed's stay in the CNMI. He arrived in the commonwealth 13 years ago in 1996 and has maintained in his immigration status.

In 1998 after a trip to Saipan, my husband and I encouraged leaders of the guest workers to form the United Worker Alliance in an attempt to unite the different nationalities of guest workers. At that time the guest workers remained isolated within groups of their own nationalities being separated by cultural and language barriers. Mr. Ahmed, Nousher Jaheti, Sumon Sumon, Md. Mozaffar Hossain, Vic Perez and Emil Trampe were some of the leaders of that movement.

One of the first major events of the newly formed organization was a rally held when the congressional delegation of Don Young and others visited Saipan. The workers were falsely accused by the governor and Abramoff-friendly U.S. Congressmen (Schaffer, Young, Doolittle) of receiving money from the Department of Interior to sponsor that event. It was actually funded by human rights advocates, myself included.

The complaint details that Mr. Ahmed was an outspoken spokesperson on behalf of the disenfranchised foreign contract workers.

From the complaint:
17. In 1999, Mr. Ahmed was interviewed by a reporter from The New York Times and that inteview of Mr. Ahmed discussing rampant illegal recruitment of foreign labor and egregious labor abuses in the Commonwealth appeared in the The New York Times Magazine later that year.
18. In March 2000, Mr. Ahmed accepted a position with the newly created Federal Ombudsman’s Office in the Commonwealth as a caseworker and translator assisting alien workers with labor and employment related grievances against their Commonwealth employer’s.
19. Mr. Ahmed continues to be employed with the Federal Ombudsman’s Office and continues to assist aggrieved guest workers with labor disputes against their present and former Commonwealth employers.
20. For many years, the Federal Ombudsman has been critical of the policies and procedures at the Commonwealth Department of Labor and the officials of both the Department of Labor and the Division of Immigration, particularly relating to the Department’s handling of labor grievances of alien workers, the stereotyping of categories of labor grievances as fraudulent or frivolous, and the Department’s continuing denial of alien workers’ rights to due process.
21. The Federal Ombudsman, for which Mr. Ahmed works, has been critical of policies practices of the Division of Immigration related to, among other things, the continued recruitment practices of off-island alien labor by Commonwealth employers notwithstanding the growing numbers of unemployed alien workers present in the Commonwealth pursuing wage claims and other violations of law of their former Commonwealth employers.
The complaint states that Mr. Ahmed married Azmery Sultana in August 5, 2008 and requested a visa waiver to bring his wife to the CNMI since in 2004 Bangladesh was placed on the "excluded countries" list by the Attorney General.

Mr. Ahmed applied in December 2008 for an exemption to Acting AG Baka. According to the complaint, under CNMI law the Attorney General has discretion to provide for waivers and exceptions from blanket country exclusions.

On February 3, 2009 Acting AG Baka told Mr. Ahmed that his request for a waiver was denied stating, “it was not in the best interest of the Commonwealth that the exclusion be waived.” How could it possibly be in the best interest of the commonwealth for a long time dedicated public servant to be denied a waiver to bring his wife to the commonwealth?

From the complaint (emphasis added):
28. Defendant Baka did not attempt clarify why Azmery Sultana’s request for a waiver was unacceptable, how the application was somehow deficient, nor how the interests of the Commonwealth would be adversely affected by her entry.
29. Defendant Baka did, however, attempt to justify in his letter why Bangladesh is on the excluded countries list in the first place - a justification having little to do with the particular facts of Azmery Sultana’s waiver request or with Defendant Baka’s purported justification for the denial of such a waiver in her case, i.e., that it would not be in the best interest of the Commonwealth for Sultana to gain entry.
30. In his letter denying a § 804(C) waiver for Mr. Ahmed’s wife, Defendant Baka makes further reference to the passage by the United States Congress of Public Law 110-229 on May 8, 2008 (the “federal takeover” legislation) as resulting from the Commonwealth’s inability to manage its own immigration, and Baka somewhat insultingly and wholly irrelevantly suggests that Mr. Ahmed and his wife apply to the United States Department of State for a visa - a visa that would, presumably, allow Azmery Sultana to travel to the United States, but not necessarily to the Commonwealth.
31. Comments of the Director of Immigration, Defendant Grey, to Mr. Ahmed soon after the waiver denial clarified Defendant Baka’s odd comments on federal takeover of Commonwealth immigration in his denial letter, shedding light on the actual basis of the denial of a § 804(C) waiver for Azmery Sultana - that Mr. Ahmed had been outspoken on the issue of workers’ rights and federal takeover legislation both personally and through his work with the Federal Ombudsman’s Office and that Mr. Ahmed was now being punished for his participation in causing the “federal takeover” of the Commonwealth’s control over its borders.
32. Defendant Grey’s comments to Mr. Ahmed included: “The whole Federal Ombudsman’s Office worked for the federalization and now the Federal government cannot address your problem?” “You are a part of that office, they wanted federal takeover and that happened, so the Federal government should take care of your problem.”
33. Echoing Defendant Baka’s baseless denial of Azmery Sultana’s entry based on the “best interests of the Commonwealth,” Defendant Grey also stated that Ms. Sultana’s entry was denied because “[her] presence is not a significant benefit for the CNMI. It’s just a personal benefit, a family reunion,” or words to that effect.
If the accusations stated in this complaint are correct then Mr. Grey and Mr. Baka have advanced the case for federalization by once again illustrating the importance of immediately ending the existing dysfunctional local system. Their remarks suggest that they are not supportive of reasonable requests from someone with a conflicting point of view. They are incapable of maintaining impartiality when faced with the task of making a simple professional decision. It seems that they will defend the administration's stand at any cost, even the cost of their own reputations, which should be in question now, if they haven't been already. Their responses to Mr. Ahmed's request were bullish snips, which are not worthy of the powerful positions that they have been entrusted to uphold on behalf of the people of the commonwealth.

Why was the suggestion made to apply to the U.S. for a visa? Both of these men should understand CNMI immigration law and must have known it is a CNMI visa, not a U.S. visa that would be required. Were they playing games? Having a laugh at Mr. Ahmed's expense?

The two defendants appear to be power trippers smugly replying to Mr. Ahmed like he is not worthy of respect and a decent answer. Grey's reference to the federal takeover and Mr. Ahmed's support is scary.

There is a pattern in the Fitial Administration that is undeniably twisted. We saw DOL volunteer Deanne Siemer and Deputy Secretary Kaipat go after Rep. Tina Sablan because she questioned their improper actions and policies. We saw the Governor and Siemer attack the former Ombudsman Jim Benedetto for exposing the corruption and injustice within the DOL. When Former Assistant Deputy of OIA David Cohen spoke out against human trafficking he too was attacked. Some of their past tactics include: letters written to superiors in an attempt to get alleged enemies fired, snarky and often untruthful letters to the editor attacking perceived enemies, and attaching a deceitful report to the governor's testimony to discredit a human rights advocate.

After the denial, Mr. Ahmed appealed to Mr. Baka to reconsider his waiver denial. He provided Mr. Baka and Director Grey with letters of support from an Assistant United States Attorney, a Special Agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and an Investigator for the United States Department of Labor. He also provided them with certificates of appreciation given to Mr. Ahmed by the Governor of the Commonwealth, the Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Labor and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for his past service to the public.

Mr. Baka failed to answer the appeal, but it didn't end there. In what appears to be a truly vindictive attempt to justify the denial, the OAG instigated an investigation. From the complaint: (emphasis added)
38. Perhaps in an effort to find substantiation for the denial of a waiver where there was none, but what readily appeared to be further retaliation against Mr. Ahmed in any case, after Mr. Ahmed’s appeal, Defendants Baka and Grey caused Assistant Attorney General Kathleen Busenkell to open an investigation into the veracity of the documents Mr. Ahmed submitted to prove the validity of his recent marriage to Azmery Sultana. Defendants suggested, rather publicly, that Mr. Ahmed’s documentation was somehow fraudulent - a spurious allegation - in addition to Defendants making confusing comments to Mr. Ahmed and possibly others about what they allege as Mr. Ahmed’s “questionable attitude at Labor.”
39. Additionally, during his employment with the Federal Ombudsman’s Office, and likely factors contributing to the impetus for the retaliatory conduct of the Defendants described herein, Mr. Ahmed, and the Federal Ombudsman’s Office for whom he worked, assisted in various matters including:
a. The filing of a labor complaint by an employee of Defendant Baka’s wife Charlene Baka against Mrs. Baka for labor and employment abuses;
b. The filing of a labor complaint by an employee of Immigration Investigator John Peter against him for labor and employment abuses;
c. The instigation of a criminal probe into the criminal activities and improprieties of former Immigration Investigator Richard Lizama; and
d. The termination of Mei Lynch - the wife of Kevin Lynch, Chief Prosecutor and former attorney for the Division of Immigration - by the Federal Ombudsman’s Office for potential criminal activity and other improprieties.
40. Notwithstanding the arguable illegality of § 804 of the Immigration Regulations in the first place, the Defendants’ actions described above, denying Mr. Ahmed’s wife a § 804(C) waiver to allow her to enter the Commonwealth to be united with Mr. Ahmed, were no doubt in retaliation for, among other of Mr. Ahmed’s constitutionally protected activities, Mr. Ahmed’s long-standing vocal criticism of the plight of the contract workers in the Commonwealth, his criticism of the Commonwealth government’s consistently abhorrent reaction to deteriorating labor and immigration problems, and his vocal support for “federal takeover.”
When does it end? With the election? With the federal takeover?

May this lawsuit serve to teach vindictive "public servants" a serious lesson. Shame on them, and all others involved including those cited in this complaint for violating labor and other laws.

The plaintiff claims first amendment retaliation, conspiracy, and violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1986. He seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, and legal fees.

How could it possibly hurt the CNMI if Mr. Ahmed's wife from Bangladesh joined him in Saipan? May Mr. Ahmed be victorious in his case and be justly compensated.

This is just one more example of why those locally controlled laws need to be abolished immediately. Federalization - bring it on!

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

The conduct that has been alleged here is truly disgusting and shocking. Ripon Ahmed is a smart, dedicated and hardworking public servant. The thought of him being the victim of personal retaliation is sickening.

cactus said...

Great -- these guys spend the last five years harrassing all the Bangladeshis who have married local women, now they've got one who wants to bring in his own wife from home, and they won't let him.

One especially unfortunate result of the constant federal pressure on immigration is that it has caused some CNMI officials, and others in the community as well, to forget own their basic humanity, and adopt the same kinds of poisonous attitudes toward aliens that are too often seen in the US, especially where anything relating to marriage or babies is concerned.

Down with federalization, and down with all the copycat American-style paranoia it has inspired! Long live a free, fair, and friendly CNMI!

Wendy said...

Anonymous 6:03

Exactly. He is one of the nicest and most dedicated people I know. This is just disgusting. I hope that this can be reversed and his wife can come to the CNMI as soon as possible.

Wendy said...

Cactus

I agree with what you said in the first sentence, but not with the cause. Grey has to have severe character flaws to do something like this. Lots of us are under pressure and we are not mean and vindictive. No excuses.

I think it is interesting that you blame everything on the U.S. and federalization. The CNMI did not learn from the U.S. -the abuses and corruption are on a scale I have never witnessed in the U.S. I work with immigrants and migrant workers in the U.S. too.

The dangerous thing about the CNMI is that the strong political and family ties allow people to make excuses. I've witnessed this over and over in the CNMI. When you know that your job depends on shutting up and turning a blind eye most people shut up and pretend they didn't see...

No excuses!!!

Anonymous said...

Yes. The two should be flogged! It still does not change the fact that Bangladesh is on the exclusion list.

cactus said...

"The CNMI did not learn from the U.S.?" You've got to be kidding me. Where do you think the "exclusion list" came from in the first place? Look at some of the countries that are on there. Algeria? I would be surprised if a single Algerian has ever even attempted to come to the CNMI. It is a FEDERAL list that the CNMI has adopted as part of a misguided effort to impress and appease the feds. The same is true of all the marriage-enforcement issues. Used to be, if you were married, you were married, and that was it. Now we have adopted the whole federal-type system of suspicion and investigation of marriages, in order to show the feds that we can be just as paranoid, intrusive and insulting as they can.

In this, as in most things, our application is more ham-fisted than the feds, who like to butter on their arrogance more unctuously, but the underlying fact remains that our frantic efforts to "stave off" federalization through appeasement have not only failed, they have had the ironic result that we have already, in some ways, "federalized" ourselves.

Anonymous said...

How on earth will Baka be able to get anything done as Acting AG while staving off two law suits against him and defending the administration in another?

I think it is time to appoint a real AG and stop with this Acting AG nonsense. Isn't one year of Acting more than the public should endure. Is this Hollywood?

As for this particular case, I am not at all surprised. Baka and Grey are vindictive and this petty behavior fits with what they have done and said in the past when the subject of federalizaiton has come up.

Go get 'em Hanson!

Wendy said...

Cactus

Yes, there are similarities between some of the CNMI and US immigration laws and policies and in some labor policies. (Actually, when I responded I was thinking of labor policies.) I am sure that you are correct -that the list is much like that in the U.S. Back in the early 1990s it was reported that the CNMI legislature wanted Bangladeshi workers banned because of illegal recruitment problems etc.

As far as marriage fraud I thought it was the OAG that put out that aggressive stance. In fact, I remember them using marriage fraud as an excuse to go after FAS citizens and spouses and to make the policy that spouses of FAS citizens would be treated like guest workers. I agree that it is exactly what you described - paranoid, intrusive and insulting, regardless of reason.

You have a very good point. BUT I am still not excusing this obnoxious and illegal behavior of Grey and Baka for any reason.

Anonymous said...

Why would ASST. AG Kathleen Busenkell participate in these gestapo tactics? How long has she been with the OAG?

Anonymous said...

Alleged obnoxious and illegal behavior. Consider the source, Mark B. Hanson.

captain said...

Aside from this vindictive attitude of the two named in the suit.
I thought that a "guest worker was not allowed to bring his family with him to reside in the NMI, unless they were management (owner) and had a high salary. Was he requesting a "visitors Visa" or was he requesting for a permanent status for her to come and reside in the NMI.

What is Ahmed's immigration status. Is he a guest worker with an employment contract, or a "real" Federal employee with all of the rights and benefits etc.

Anonymous said...

for your information Sir, Mr. Captain: Mr. Ahmed is certified that "pursuant to the Regulatory requirement Mr. Ahmed is qualified to sponsor his wife as an alien IR." This means his income is 150 percent greater than the federal poverty level for the state of Hawaii. Mr. ahmed is a contract worker for the Federal Government. There should be no question at all for his eligibility to sponsor his wife. Its not new, CNMI AG approved FIVE waivers under the current administration in 2006, denial of Mr. Ahmed's waiver was not regulatory but Retaliatory, peace

captain said...

Anon 12:47, thanks for clarifying his status.He should also then have a "preferred" preferencial Immigration status that would apply to his family.
This may make this case more serious and complex.

I hope this comes to fruition and not swept under the rug. These two guys may now try to make a deal to make the complaint go away.
It will be interesting to read the response to this suit.
What possible "legal" reason the Immigration and the AG could make up to deny the "special exemption for the wife?

cactus said...

No excuses intended. I am probably even more hostile to federalization than these guys are, but I have no use for petty bull**** like this. Let us not sink to the level of the enemy.

the teacher said...

Ooch Cactus, the quote is one of my favorites.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you, Mr. Prickly!

Anonymous said...

Wendy said...

I am still not excusing this obnoxious and illegal behavior of Grey and Baka for any reason.

It is interesting how people with a certain world view are so willing, even eager, to believe odious flat-out lies about others. Some need to demonize an "enemy" to feel better about themselves and the righteousness of their cause.

Baka is as vindictive as Mother Teresa.

Anonymous said...

Baka is a very vindictive individual. A Mother Teresa he is not.

Anonymous said...

Have you actually had personal dealings with Baka? He's been a lawyer here since the end of 1990. Baka doesn't have a vengeful bone in his body. If anything, he's too meek.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 12:04

You are correct -it should have read alleged obnoxious and illegal behavior. Knowing the outstanding character of the plaintiff, I tend to assume that the alleged facts are the truth. Especially since most allegations in the complaint derive from written statements and documents. There is also the fact that the February 2009 appeal was ignored.

As for the statement, It is interesting how people with a certain world view are so willing, even eager, to believe odious flat-out lies about others. Some need to demonize an "enemy" to feel better about themselves and the righteousness of their cause, I wrote about this because it demonstrates just how broken the local system is and because the alleged behavior is inexcusable. I do not consider the defendants as enemies, but as defenders of a corrupt and dysfunctional system and supporters of an anti-federalization agenda.

What are the odious flat-out lies? I suppose the alleged labor violations cited in the complaint are lies? Was the letter a lie? Is it a lie that the appeal was not answered? Pretty easy things to determine. What are the lies that you are talking about?

It's a typical response to blame and vilify the messenger by stating (not alleging) incorrect motives - "to feel better about themselves and the righteousness of their cause."

I feel just fine about myself, thank you, and I am not the concern in this issue. Neither is the cause. Your spin is incorrect. Simply put, it appears that two officials abused their power to harm an innocent man and his wife. I have a problem with that if true.

Mother Teresa would not work for and advance the agenda of Governor Fitial. I am quite familiar with her work.

Anonymous said...

It is important to distinguish between the facts presented by the plaintiff, the facts assumed by his lawyer, and the facts ignored or unknown by his lawyer. Thus far, Wendy, you have shown yourself unable to do that. At trial, it may be interesting to see the dozens of character witnesses testifying about the defendants' reputations for vindictiveness.

The plaintiff's reputation for vindictivenss or honesty is not implicated at all by the complaint, and thus is irrelevant to its resolution. He could be Superman, but the relevant intent is that of the defendants.

Calumny is the spreading of untruths about others, such as vile speculation about their motives. While it may be protected to some extent in court filings, it is not so on blogs. And this is not something Mother Teresa would contenance -- except to accept suffering as a blessing (which still does not rationalize inflicting it intentionally). Your readers have come to expect at least a modicum of fairness from you.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 8:31

This is my blog and my opinion. No calumny is intended at all. Everything I referenced was taken from the complaint. I find the BEHAVIOR vindictive and mean-spirited if it is true. (Not necessarily the defendants as persons.) What logical reason could there be to deny such a request?

These are public officials -public figure and if what is alleged is true they have done a disservice to the people that they serve.

When the defendants file their reply in fairness, as always, I will post that too. Maybe my opinion will change. It appears you are one of the defendants. Feel free to state your side!

Anonymous said...

There is a time and a place for everything, particularly within our adversarial legal system. One doesn't have to be a lawyer to understand the wisdom of reserving judgment until knowing all the relevant facts.

Anonymous said...

Noni 6:50 AM
Maybe, but there is free speech and we all have a right to state an opinion.

Based on the complaint that is linked above, IF TRUE I agree that the acts could be considered retaliation and would be mean-spirited. Cactus was correct when he said that some have lost their sense of humanity.

Anonymous said...

Dear all: for all of your information please be advised that the plaintiff visits CNMI Labor & Immigration building almost every working day for profesional reason and he is very known to all CNMI Immigration officialS, it should not take eight months for CNMI AG to act on his request, to my knowledge, Mr. Ahmed exhausted all his efforts to resolve and mitigate the whole issue prior to go to the federal judicial avenue. Mr. Ahmed did not get anything but run around from the defendants for the past eight months. To me it was very unethical for Baka to cite P.L. 110-229 with Mr. Ahmed when plaintiff played no role in Capitol Hill where US Congress voted to pass so called federalization bill.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the point or lesson learned in the lawsuit that one should not personalize advocacy by the Ombudsman's office? Ripon does his work and does it well.. so do Chris and Glenn. Fine advocates. Treat them just like everyone else. Why be so vindictive? There is nothing to be gained by anyone with such an approach-- whether it be case workers for Ombudsman's Office; Public Defenders, etc.

Anonymous said...

And the OAG. Precisely.