Bill to Delay Federalization

September 24, 2009


We knew Congressman Sablan was talking about introducing a bill to delay federalization for some time. He introduced such a bill today. The chances of the bill passing are slim to none. Mostly none, according to sources on the Hill.

Here is the press release:
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan today introduced legislation that delays the start of federal immigration control in the Northern Mariana Islands until December 1, 2010.

“I have made the decision to seek this delay only after much deliberation,” said Sablan. “I firmly believe that federal control of the borders will reduce the scams and abuses that have been a hallmark of local immigration control.

“And I believe that just as political union with the United States was a wise decision and one that benefits the Northern Mariana Islands every single day, so too will it benefit us to be part of the U.S. immigration system.

“But the simple truth is that the Department of Homeland Security, which has had almost a year and a half to prepare, is not ready to implement U.S. Public Law 110-229 on November 28.

“I know that for many people in Washington and in the Commonwealth, who have been pushing for U.S. control of immigration, my bill will seem like backsliding. And I certainly would have preferred not to have to take this action. But I also have to acknowledge the reality of the situation.

“Homeland Security has not finalized arrangements for space at the ports of entry that it must control. No construction of facilities at the ports has begun. None of the sophisticated communications and data entry equipment and supporting infrastructure needed have been installed. Not a single Customs and Border Patrol employee is in place in the Marianas to manage the start-up, which is scheduled to occur in just 65 days.

“Even the Department of Homeland Security itself has now admitted in written reply to Congress that the Department will not be fully operational in the Marianas until 2011.

“That’s not good enough. The people of the Northern Mariana Islands – and the people of all the United States – deserve and expect all U.S. borders to be fully operational all the time.”

Sablan’s bill does not just delay the start of federal control for a year. The bill also responds to agency foot-dragging by requiring reports to Congress every 30 days on actions being taken to be fully prepared to man the borders on December 1, 2010.

“I want to make clear that my bill is not delay for the sake of delay. And I certainly don’t want to find us back in this same predicament a year from now with an impending start up date and an agency that isn’t prepared.

“My bill requires DHS to provide Congress with detailed budgets for the next two years to show how the transition will be paid for. The Department will be required to explain what equipment, software, and personnel needs it has and how it plans to get that infrastructure in place.”

The measure also addresses the issue of the visa waiver program that currently allows Russians and Chinese tourists to easily enter the Commonwealth.

“Although the CNMI visa waiver program would continue as is for another year under my bill, I also want Homeland Security to report to Congress on what will happen after the new start date of December 2010. If there are additional security measures needed to allow Russians and Chinese to enter, what are those measures? DHS has never told us. And, if Russian and Chinese are still excluded from a visa waiver program after December 2010, then I want DHS to explain how these countries can be included at a later date.

“I also want DHS to explain why the system we have now, which requires a bond from tourist agencies sending Russians and Chinese here and which has operated almost completely trouble free, can’t be the system that DHS uses to handle these tourists.”
A delay is not only not necessary, but would be counterproductive to the very goals that the congressman appears to support. It would create more uncertainty for struggling business owners and for nonresidents and their families who would like the process to start. A delay would perpetuate the economic troubles and delay any recovery.

DHS was granted the 180-day delay that was allowed in the law. The DHS has indicated at the hearing, in correspondence and at face-to-face meetings that they would be ready to implement the law on November 28th. Why would they possibly say that they are ready, if they are not? It makes absolutely no sense. Certainly if they were not ready they would have taken advantage of all the opportunities offered to them by Cong. Sablan, Governor Fitial and federalization fighter calling for a delay instead of insisting that they are prepared.

Congressman Sablan claims that DHS stated that they will not be fully operational until 2010. They did not say that they would not be doing a quality job or that they would not be prepared. DHS actually said that the infrastructure would be established in phases. The reply from the DHS responding to questions posed after the May 19, 2009 hearing explains that aspect:
Question: What progress has the Department made in establishing the physical infrastructure needed to implement its requirements under the law?

Response:

Under the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008, Public Law 110-229, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is required to begin transitioning implementation of immigration laws at ports of entry in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) starting November 28, 2009. CNMI will retain customs and agriculture functions on each of the islands. To achieve this end, CBP has made considerable progress in planning to provide the specific port of entry infrastructure and components required to commence operations within the CNMI.

Since the facilities and infrastructure currently utilized by the CNMI Immigration Service are inadequate to support CBP operations, DHS will be taking a phased approach to implement the standard infrastructure and permanent staffing requirements at the CNMI. These requirements include: adequate power supply at CBP facilities to support the required information technology infrastructure; construction of new, and improvement of the existing facilities; physical security (both interior and exterior) and access control; standard maintenance and cleaning; firing range access for uniformed CBP officers; standard CBP signage; and adequate supplies of potable water.

In order to have facilities and infrastructure in place in a manner comparable to the level provided at other similar ports of entry in the United States, in FY 2009 DHS is working to initiate the necessary contracts. DHS is focusing on the airport facilities in Saipan and Rota first to commence operations by the new implementation date of November 28, 2009.

In the second phase beginning in FY 2010, DHS will staff these locations with a combination of experienced Temporary Duty (TDY) CBP officers as well as entry level positions. Additionally, the Tinian airport facility may become operational in order to provide services on all three major islands within the CNMI.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will place personnel on a TDY status in CNMI starting in FY 2010 and will begin the process to build out temporary facilities. However, permanent facilities and infrastructure (IT, equipment) will not be in place until FY 2011.

During Phase I and II, seaport operations will be run remotely from the airports, with staff assigned on an as needed basis and technology needs being leveraged from existing technology at the airports. The development of three seaports on Saipan, Rota, and Tinian in FY 2011 will bring all six designated ports of entry into full operations.

To maximize resources and ensure effective communication, CBP continues to coordinate closely with other DHS components responsible for providing operations within the CNMI, including ICE and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

On March 10, 2009 USCIS opened its Application Support Center (ASC) in Saipan. The collection of biometrics from applicants for benefits is an essential mission of USCIS and this supports that effort in the CNMI and eliminates the need for current and future applicants to go to the ASC in Guam. This ASC is an expanded ASC in that it has officers stationed to provide information to the public and to conduct interviews of applicants for benefits and is not solely for the collection of biometrics.
Where did it ever say in PL 110-299 that on the date that the law begins a complete infrastructure must be in place? Secure and operational border control can certainly take place without buildings.

Budget questions were also addressed in the responses from DHS. A delay is certainly not required to get answers to budget questions or questions on equipment or materials! Weren't these questions posed at recent meetings with Secretary Napolitano? Did she refuse to answer?

What steps have the CNMI officials taken to ease the transition to federalization? Most of the reaction from CNMI officials and their anti-federalization allies has been to continually oppose and fight the inevitable takeover.

Let's play the devil's advocate and say that DHS really were not ready when November 28, 2009 rolled around. What would happen? The White House could be called upon to issue federal troops to the CNMI to secure the western border of the United States. Do you really believe that DHS does not know the implications of not being ready for the November deadline?

The fact that Congressman Sablan discusses Chinese and Russian visa waivers in his press release is interesting. No delay is necessary to resolve that issue. It can certainly be resolved without asking for a delay.

The way to get an agency or department to do their job certainly is not by telling them that they have more time. DHS has had adequate time and they are obligated to meet their goals. This bill sends the wrong message. It says, that it's okay that a federal agency be allowed to slack in meeting deadlines and that critical deadlines can be extended at the expense of the public. It ignores the fact that there are thousands of people waiting for federalization to begin. To extend the deadline means allowing the broken labor and immigration system to continue to the detriment of the foreign contract workers and the residents of the CNMI. It means allowing more time for additional immigration fraud and schemes to develop. It means more uncertainty to the nonresidents and their families. It means a delay in economic recovery. This was a very disappointing and mistaken move. It is also very unnecesary according to these responses from DHS.

Read the legislation.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not even the bussiness owners support a delay. What a stupid move.

told you so said...

Looks like Sablan is mainly concerned with Chinese and Russian tourists and is asking for a delay for this reason with the excuse that they won't be ready with the border control. Doesn't he know other members of congress will find out DHS said they are ready? Won't DHS have to be called before a committee? How could a bill pass this quickly? He could be the one who actually is responsible for the delay by giving DHS this excuse. Tsk, tsk.

Anonymous said...

Kilili knows this bill has no chance to pass. It is either political or to urge DHS onward!

Anonymous said...

7:40

This bill is embarrassing. Political how? Political suicide? Maybe Bordallo is behind this. Let's see how it benefits Guam.

Anonymous said...

How terribly disappointing. What is he thinking?

Anonymous said...

It's generally accepted that the actual and timely passage of this bill (i.e., before Nov. 28) is highly unlikely.

Bills don't sail through the halls of U.S. Congress nearly as quickly as they sail through the halls of the CNMI Legislature.

And thank god for that.

So what is Kilili thinking? And what's in it for Guam?

Anonymous said...

This is shocking! Who would have thought Delegate Sablan would try to hijack federalization? There is certain to be backlash from this.

Anonymous said...

Tuta ni Fitial!

cactus said...

"The White House could be called upon to issue federal troops to the CNMI to secure the western border of the United States."

Sometimes your inner right-wing screaming-eagle-nationalist impulses really get the better of you, don't they? DHS not ready to set up and run the complex system they're supposed to? Not a problem. Naked federal power alone is good enough; all the rest was just window dressing for that anyway.

Of course in that case, why even wait for November 28? Why not just send in the Marines and occupy the island right now? After all, it worked in 1944.

Anonymous said...

Sablan is doing what any proud citizen would do: He is protecting his people and his home. Federalization now will put hundreds of local and guest workers out of work. Those pathetic candle light vigils will not sway the DHS, they can see right through it.

Anonymous said...

Noni 6:21

Sablan is playing politics. How many times has he been told that DHS would be ready for November 28th? He looked the secretary in the eye and he said that he didn't believe her according to a previous story. "With all due respect I disagree."

Look at the bill he wrote. It's not about a delay because they are not ready. It's about the whine that the Chinese and Russian visa waivers are not a certainty right now. Whine, whine, temper tantrum. The bs about not being ready is an excuse.

Proud citizen? No way. A proud citizen works to transition federalization and not to block it or delay it.

DHS does not need to be swayed. They are moving along to transition to federalization. It's Sablan and Fitial who are trying to stop it and get the masses rallied up before the move.

Wendy said...

Good morning Saipan.

Cactus, I was not saying I supported troops coming to Saipan. It was a point made to stress the fact that DHS would not say that they were ready for the deadline if they were not because someone else in the federal government would have to step in. Your comment did not actually address what was said or the intent of what was expressed.

Anonymous said...

The clock is ticking. There are less than 45 work days until the deadline. No bill can pass in that time. Why can't our delegate work with DHS in DC to make sure the transition is smooth? What happened to the federal lawsuit?

Anonymous said...

There is no 'transitional team' in place anywhere in the CNMI. After November 28th there will be no Visa waivers, NO GREEN CARDS and no amnesty for any illegal alien. That's right Wendy even those that are owed money. BTW, how come they don't use the courts to get their money back? We are watching this very carefully. There are hungry American children right now in the US mainland. We will find out how much money the DHS will spend on any non us citizen. How much plane tickets cost? Food stamps, you name it. We will find out who is flying first class from DC out to the CNMI to hold 'meetings' and vigils. Those numbers will be seen by millions of Americans who have little hope of income. Stay tuned. Even the most die hard ultralibs will be really pissed off.

Anonymous said...

Cactus, you have gone off the deep end. So, the marines that fought and died to liberate Saipan in 1944 were sent to "occupy" the Marianas? You owe veterans everywhere an apology.

True Patriot said...

No, actually, Wendy does. She is the one who introduced the canard about “sending in federal troops.”

CNMI self-government and the Posse Comitatus Act be damned!

So no, cactus, no self-respecting conservative would ever say such a thing. This is ultra-lib-speak (non-pejorative) through and through.

Why not send troops to Orlando?! I was going to remark on the sentence you quoted, but instead just enjoyed a good laugh.

What a worldview! But it would be a very boring world if everyone thought similarly.

True Patriot said...

And yes, if you read your history, Operation Forager was indeed intended to occupy the Marianas and use them as a base for bombing Japan.

No contemporaneous claim was ever made about trying to “liberate” the people here.

Anonymous said...

8:26 I agree . Wendy explained what she meant even though she didn't have to. Any school child could grasp the point.

Anonymous said...

noni 8:03

You are not part of the solution but part of the problem.

Anonymous said...

All Kilili has done is to create a firestorm of disunity.

professor said...

I was going to suggest a comprehension test for the people who can't get it, but then I realized ah-ha! they do get it. They just want to twist the meaning and words. Pathetic.

Saipan Writer said...

People respond to more than words.

Federalization of the CNMI immigration is an issue because it touches on very different ideals.

I support federalization of the CNMI immigration only because I see no hope for the CNMI changing and ever escaping the two-tiered labor system that keeps foreign workers in cheap, under-paid positions and prevents local workers from occupying private sector jobs at decent wages. I see locally-controlled immigration as a lose-lose proposition for most everyone, where only a handful of businesses win.

That doesn't mean I think U.S. immigration is something to look forward to. It's just a shade better, and that's not saying much.

Some people, like Cactus, think the benefits (small as they are) aren't worth the cost to the CNMI in control of its own matters. When comments relate to federal power, no matter how tangetial, they trigger that fear and anger about this issue.

It doesn't mean Cactus is rabid--just weighing the considerations differently.

I wish the U.S. would do more, would have more done by now. I wish we had regulations already, at the very least!

If you're trying to get someone to swallow a bitter pill, you don't need to make it worse by forgetting to have the sweet juice handy to wash it down and offering something to remind of how beneficial it will be.

But all that said, I believe delay would be a bigger disaster. We need to all get better prepared for the transition. Let's do it. The sooner we start, the sooner we can start to make it work right.

jmho

Anonymous said...

What is the absent-minded professor babbling about?

Wendy said...

Thanks for your comment Jane. I heard the new regulations will be out very soon.

Anonymous said...

What happens when you find out that there will be no green cards given out to guest workers Wendy? Will there be some kind of candle light vigil with depressed looking guest workers lingering around? What oh what will you do?

Anonymous said...

Another "peaceable assembly" protest, of course!

Hope springs eternal. We wouldn't want to suggest that all these unemployed foreign nationals go back home and contribute to their community there, would we?

Noooo.

We are too patriotic, nationalistic, and America-centric, aren't we? The 4.5% of the world's population who live in America inhabit the land of gold and freedom, a veritable utopia on earth, while the other 95.5% of the world's people live in countries of abject suffering, poverty, corruption and pollution, where no self-respecting human would want to live and where life is not worth living!

That's the message these "activists" purvey. And the confused guest workers are only too happy to listen to anyone who offers such "hope."

How do you think so many of them got scammed into coming to the CNMI in the first place?

They are gullible, and the "activists" are using and abusing them to fulfill their misguided notions of social change.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 1:23

We do not know what kind of status will be given to the guest workers. We only know what we have been working for, which is comprehensive immigration reform.

We hope that the years of dedicated work to the CNMI and the need for a skilled and vital workforce will be considered when the DOI makes recommendations and Congress finally acts on status for foreign contract workers. Of course, no one can predict the outcome.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 2:25

As someone who has advocated for guest workers since the 1980s I can say I am not motivated by anything but the desire to see justice and reform.

In an ideal world the guest workers would be able to take any savings from their overseas labor and return to their homelands to open a small business and even hire others from their community to build up the local economy. In some labor exporting countries, we can sometimes see the results of the workers' overseas stays. For example, in the Philippines many of the jeepneys bear the names of the countries where the owners' worked. I saw a jeepney named "Saipan" on my last visit! Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world and most workers must continue to work abroad to be able to support their families or extended families because they cannot find sustainable jobs in their own countries and they do not have enough savings to open a business. Sadly, too many workers are cheated during their overseas employment stays and many have returned penniless. They immediately look for a job in another country.

I have stayed in touch with dozens of guest workers that I met as far back as the 1980s. Some left the CNMI and went to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and other countries where they are now citizens and have their families with them. They are prosperous, happy and working to build a new life in a new land. Some returned to their homelands where life continues to be a day to day struggle. Many have been renewed year after year in the CNMI and consider the CNMI their home. I have never advocated what path an overseas worker should take and have never claimed that there is only one path. What I have said is that for the long-term workers there should be the option of an unobstructed pathway to citizenship.

Thousands of workers are working abroad not just to put their own children through school, but to give their nieces and nephews and even more distant relatives a college education with the hopes that someday they will not have to work overseas. They share the common desire to see the cycle broken. Many foreign workers would rather stay with their families and work in their own homelands if there were employment opportunities for them.

The guest worker system in America and in most countries is a broken system that exploits workers from third-world nations. It is fed on greed, exploitation and often corruption. The labor exporting countries, more often than not, turn a blind eye when there are abuses, because it is the remittances sent home that sustain their economies. This is not a simple issue to sort out. Few individuals have the time or financial means to work on all aspects at once.

Peaceful assemblies or candle light vigils give visitors such as members of Congress a chance to put a face to the issue. They allow the workers to unite to share their common views and voice out their concerns. The foreign contract workers in the CNMI are disenfranchised politically and socially. They have no vote, no voice. One right that they do have in the CNMI is first amendment rights. There is nothing wrong with them expressing that right though a vigil, an assembly or a march.

Anonymous 2:25 said...

While I still contend that those who induce the unskilled, unemployed foreign nationals to remain in the CNMI for long periods of indefinite duration are doing them a disservice, thank you for the cogent explanation of your perspective.

the teacher said...

Many employers here are not renewing guest workers and are trying to transition by hiring more local citizens. Faces of locals insteed of CGWs is visible in the service stations, golf course, and food service. The jobs market here is terrible and certain to worsen. Many 10, 12, and 15 year employees are not being renewed by Mobile, hotels, and othes. Some hotels are taking the opposite strategy though by giving 2 year contracts now for some degree of short term stability.

Wendy said...

Comment Policy:

Just a reminder about the comment policy. I am immediately removing all inappropriate remarks, unrelated comments and unjustified and snarky personal attacks. I have been extremely busy and have failed to eliminate some comments that have fallen into this category (Sorry Cactus, I see a missed one directed at you. I am removing it.)

Anonymous said...

Wendy Doromol and Company tricked the Guest Workers into marching the 6000 people march to show the US Congress that the Saipan Population want Federalization. They enticed these poor folks with promised of Green Card when Federalization happens.

Wendy Doromol and Company lied to these poor folks.

FEDERALIZATION = NO GREEN CARD!

SHAME ON YOU WENDY DOROMOL AND COMPANY!!!!!!

Wendy said...

Anonymous 5:56

You comment with the same untruthful comments repeatedly. (Your consistent spelling mistakes and same repeated phrases identify you.)

Your comment is an insult to the guest workers. You suggest that they are mindless and have been "tricked", "enticed" and "lied to". This is untrue. They are intelligent, skilled and virtuous.

Unlike many commenters here, the majority of the guest workers understand that the anti-federalization fighters in the CNMI teamed up with the nativists from Guam to have the grandfathering provision that would have provided status removed from the law.

Again, DHS does not have the power to give status to the guest workers, only the U.S. Congress does as I have said consistently and repeatedly in posts on this site.

Once again, here is the provision regarding status from PL 15-108: Public Law 110-229 (48 U.S.C. § 1806(h), 122 Stat. 860).(h) "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. Among the recommendations required to be included in the report is "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.”

I do not know one person who ever promised green cards or status to the guest workers. I know many, myself included, who are working to get status for long-term guest workers and nonresidents. Advocating for, working for, writing letters of support for, writing reports and testimony for, and going to Washington to speak to officials face-to-face is not "lying", "promising", "tricking" or "enticing." What I do and have done for 20 years is to advocate, support, and work for justice and reform on behalf of the guest workers.

Anonymous 2:25 said...

If you talk to guest workers here on the ground, as I do, an awful lot of them remain convinced that eventually they will get green cards or some other status.

Whose “fault” this is becomes almost beside the point. The central consequence of this belief is that there is a vast number of unemployed foreign national workers willing to “take a chance” by hiding out until President Obama's immigration legislation passes.

Having so many wait-and-see unemployed unskilled workers is no good for them, for the CNMI, or for the local U.S. citizens.

And not all the foreign national workers are virtuous. There are plenty of scammers, including former employers now become employees.

Anonymous said...

Those that "wait it out" will be deported back to the PI by the Department of Homeland Security. There will be thousands deported in months following Nov 28th. If they are breaking the law so be it. Same thing would happen if an American broke the law in the PI.

Wendy said...

Will there be thousands deported? That is not what I have heard.

I communicate with the guest workers every day. While they maintain hope, they know that status will be determined by Congress and it is a complicated issue. That said, there is no reason to stop pushing for status!

cactus said...

There is an underlying similarity of world view among the workers who hold out for a federal status, those who encourage and/or support them in this quest, the labor recruiters who get people here by telling them that they are "going to America," and the recent spate of scammers advertising for investors on the promise of future green cards.

All of these -- regardless of their many differences in terms of relative economic status, good or bad motive, and degree of cynicism or sincerity -- buy into, and/or exploit by encouraging others to buy into, the same underlying concept that the CNMI is part of the United States, and as such can and should be used as a gateway to the rest of the United States.

That concept has been the source of no end of mischief.

Anonymous said...

That is a ridiculous statement. There may be similarities between scammers who use aliens to reap profits and recruiters who do the same because those are illegal activities. But how do you compare those crooks to the OCWs and their supporters who who fight for status? Not nice, not true.

bigsoxfan said...

Cactus might be a bit off the point, but truly the Overseas Workers are expecting something beyond their initial contracts promised. There isn't a true comparison to a broker selling false hopes for a few thousand, but in the end game, the results are equal. Cash money or time spent equals no more equity than wages earned and maybe a ticket home.