On Guest Worker Status

December 21, 2009

Governor Fitial and Lt. Governor Inos issued some statements regarding the recommendations that the U.S. Department of Interior will make in the report that PL 110-229 requires them to submit to the U.S. Congress by May 2010.

The Marianas Variety quotes Inos: "Lt. Gov. Eloy S. Inos said any proposal for a CNMI-only green card is unacceptable."

The Saipan Tribune quoted Inos:
“I don't want it restricted here. If they want to issue green card, that's okay. Whoever is issued a green card can go to New Jersey, can go anywhere. But if the [green] card is limited to the CNMI, then that defeats the whole purpose of looking for our residents to obtain jobs,” he said.
I am quite sure that Inos would not have to worry about this. There is no U.S. green card that confines people to a specific location, and such a status absolutely should not be considered. No legislation should be proposed that suggests that any long-term foreign contract worker from the CNMI who is granted status must remain in the CNMI for any specified period of time. No such restriction is required anywhere else on U.S. soil and would not be an acceptable proposal for the CNMI nonresidents. If a foreign worker in the U.S. is granted a green card in Illinois, he certainly is not confined to remain only in that state.

Then there are these statements:
But the governor said granting permanent residency status to guest workers will also allow them to own businesses in the CNMI which he believes will eventually put local residents at a disadvantage.

“When [the federalization law] U.S. P.L. 110-229 came into being on May 8, 2008, we had…22,000 guest workers,” he said. “Now, we have less than 15,000. A lot of nonresidents have been repatriated. [If they’re given green cards], pretty soon, we’re going to have all nonresident workers taking over all the businesses that we have intended for locals.”

Fitial said he wants guest workers to remain in the CNMI, but without granting them permanent status.

“I will continue to fight for the guest workers to remain, that’s the essence of the lawsuit,” he added. “We want them to stay as long as they are needed. I continue to advocate that.”
What the governor proposes is that the workers remain yes, but only if they remain indentured, and disenfranchised. He wants to maintain control of the broken local system that continues to view the foreign workers as replaceable commodities. This is a system that is one step up from slavery. If the CNMI government succeeds in diluting the employers' contractual obligations for guest workers' medical care, repatriation and other benefits then the program will be even less than a step up from slavery.

Were there actually 22, 000 workers in the CNMI in May 2008 as the governor claims, or was that an inflated number as many suggest? Regardless of how many foreign workers there are in the CNMI now or were then, long-term guest workers deserve a direct pathway to citizenship after paying taxes, contributing to the economy and being vital community members for five or more years. If the CNMI wants to maintain the needed workforce then eventually the foreign workers must be given social and political rights. Those rights should include the option of owning a business in the CNMI.

Foreigners who have resided in the CNMI 5, 10, 15, 20 or more years are already members of the community, regardless of whether or not they have paperwork to verify that fact. If a U.S. citizen moved to the CNMI, he/she could be eligible to vote in less than a year, but a foreign worker who has maintained residency for 30 years and paid taxes still has no right to vote. That makes absolutely no sense.

Then there's this statement:
“The Legislature recognized then that the CNMI needed skilled labor. That brought about the enactment of Public Law 3-66 [which I sponsored]. But there was nothing in the law that would even suggest that nonresident workers should be granted a resident status. It’s only now that this issue came out,” said the governor.
The law that Fitial refers to was penned in the 3rd Legislature and has absolutely nothing to do with federal immigration law. It is a local labor law. Regardless, of the intent of that local law, it will be the federal immigration laws that will apply to the foreign workforce.

Jenner and Block: Cha-ching
Jenner and Block, the high-priced Washington, DC law firm that Fitial hired to unsuccessfully fight federalization is still being kept on retainer by the Governor's Office for $50,000 a month. While government employees are asked to cut hours the governor can afford hundreds of thousands on attorneys for a futile lawsuit.

Another Deceased Foreign Worker's Body Languishes in the Morgue
It is the responsibility of the employer of last record to repatriate a foreign contract worker. So how do these stories of deceased foreign workers' employers refusing to repatriate the bodies of their deceased employees or former employees keep surfacing?

Evaristo Flores passed away in November 2009 and according to a worker leader his last employer of record claims that she does not have the funds to repatriate his body to his grieving family members in the Philippines. That is unacceptable.

According to sources his employer of last record is a government employee. It is time that the CNMI DOL enforce contractual agreements or at least immediately address this problem. Can her wages be garnished? Can DOL or another CNMI agency pay for the repatriation? Will the CNMI government once again maintain a disrespectful silence until the guest worker community rallies to raise the funds to repatriate this person's body?


Anonymous said...

Name the government employee so he will be ashamed of his uncivilized action. He/She should shoulder the expense to send the remains of Flores home province. Sell his/her property to pay for the repatriation.

Anonymous said...

Why not bury the deceased here, if you believe guest workers are or should be fully a part of the local community?

There is no territorial jurisdictional limit on prayers.

Plus, visiting a late spouse's grave is a good basis for a visa.

The Saipan Blogger said...

Doesn't it cost about $10,000 to repatriate a body? Somebody should sue the business owner for the money, plus court fees and attorney fees.

Pam said...

Actually, it only costs a little more than $1,000 for air fare and $2,000 ish for embalming and casket. Also,why post negative comments about the dead, Anon 10:15?

Captain said...

There was supposed to be $25 from every labor contract fee taken out and put into a repatriation fund. Why can't this be used to immediately pay for the "repatriation" of the body and then sue the employer for the reimbursement.(oh, that was a stupid question)

Go after the bonding company, if it is a legit company. But if the former employer was a Govt. employee than there probably was no bond submitted.

In the meantime everyday there is additional expense for the body being kept at the morgue. The cost for this is probably by now more than the cost to fly the body home.

Maybe one of the lawyers out there have a suggestion

Anonymous said...

Noni 10:15

What an ignorant comment. Why would a spouse want to visit a place that can't even repatriate her husband's beloved body?

Hallowed Ground said...

Certainly no offense was intended.

People are buried abroad all over the world every day.

There is nothing “negative” about it; except for the sadness of the loss of the loved one.

The lack of concern for sustainability, multicultural cemeteries, and international comraderie is somewhat surprising.

Perhaps a progressive entrepreneur should open a crematorium.

Thank you Ombudsperson Pamela S. Brown for setting us straight on the actual costs involved -- I, too, would have guessed it were higher.

Anonymous said...

Noni 8:07 As has been seen over the years repeatedly,none of the Govt. employees have any shame on any thing they do,or don't do, whether a crime or things like this.(which actually is a crime also)Sue the employer, then maybe he/she will move on it as it will incur more expense. And why won't DOL get on this??

Melberlin said...

Sorry for diverting topic from the above matter... but I can't help commenting on the above statements as
"But the governor said granting permanent residency status to guest workers will also allow them to own businesses in the CNMI which he believes will eventually put local residents at a disadvantage."

Owning business means creating jobs isn't? so how did this be disadvantage to the locals?

Wendy said...

Hi Merberlin:

Great point. Some of the foreigners would be great business owners, but the governor does not want you to have that opportunity. What he is saying is that locals should be the business owners. It's classist and somewhat racist, isn't it?

The governor appears to want to maintain the two-tiered system where workers are workers and stay workers forever -not citizens, not business owners, not voters,- just tax payers and workers.

Wendy said...

Hallowed Ground and Anonymous 10:15

Perhaps you missed the point. The family wants their husband and father returned to their homeland. It is the law that the employer of last record repatriate the body.

You said, "The lack of concern for sustainability, multicultural cemeteries, and international comraderie is somewhat surprising." This is not the issue. Burial is very personal, often religious and always should be decided based on family desires or the sentiments expressed in the wills of the deceased.

You said, "Perhaps a progressive entrepreneur should open a crematorium." That sounds like a good idea. However, an employer still would have to repatriate the body whether or not a crematorium existed. Some religions do not allow cremation.

The employer needs to pay to have his body repatriated before the holidays. Shame, shame on her. Shame, shame on the CNMI government.

Anonymous said...

Would it be possible to discuss this with Tim Bellas? He still has around $500,000.00 available in the "Garment Industry Fund"
This is about as assine as the two EMT's sitting in Starbucks having coffee, observing and not helping a dying woman in distress, as they were on their coffee break!

the teacher said...

I think the CW program will, and should be re-implemented. It is a well though out answer to our complicated economics.

The CW program is absolutely an improved status from the broken CNMI system. I think it will be fair and just. The CNMI wins, the CGW's win, and local people win with this program. The US will address the cited remarks and ease travel restrictions.

I strongly disagree that allowing CGW's to operate businesses here is sound economics because they will employee. It doesn't make sense that persons who could not pay a 100k investment (CNMI in transition until 2014 to upgrade to 500k or move) will ease our unemployment concerns. The garments are gone and all labor abuse currently in the CNMI comes from underfunded foreign businesses operating here. A US investor visa in a rural area, like ours, is 500k. The investor visa regs have adaquatly addressed this issue. People who spend 500k will emplyee people and strengthen the commonwealth. Allowing current illegal business operators to operate that can't afford a US investor visa would be a nightmare and the US will not do that. The US has taken an unemotional and sound economic position on this matter. Allowing cheap, no money business operators who are guilty of immigration fraud themselves, would garuantee labor abuse and non-payment issues continue.

Anonymous said...

It's really a shame! And mind you, this isn't the first one.

Solicitation of donations for this fellow worker has been announced in our church weeks ago. I just hope this is the last one!

Melberlin said...

The Teacher...
I disagree.... most businessmen started as an employee... even though their parents owned a company, still their parents want them to employ first to have them accumulate the knowledge or skill by direct participation in all activities in the company.

Even the gov't is classifying businesses based on the size, that's why there is a small business category.

The teacher, I am 100% (yes 100%) sure that there are a lot of professional guest workers here that are making more than teachers locally (US or not)and these are employees who runs the business and manage multi-million transactions for years that has already been shaped to have their own and besides have savings to start.

There are already existing regulations that will regulates business and prevent them to cheat employees else harsh punishment will be meted. Yes there are fraud immigration businesses here but is it your basis to believed that everybody is like that? That's the job of the Feds to catch them.

But as I said big business start from small.

the teacher said...

Melberlin - I disagree strongly.

We have a disproportionately high number of small businesses, now illegal freelancers. They are not legal contract workers, but if they remain legal contract workers until 2014, their status will be made permanent resident in 2014. These cheap foreign operators are the principle cause of labor abuse here, no doubt about it. The garments are gone, we can’t lay today’s labor abuse at their door anymore and few locals own businesses on Beach Rd, Middle, or Garapan. The US has addressed this complicated economic concern here. This is the reason for the unique CW program, which will certainly be re-implemented at the end of the comment extension period. The US should ease the travel restrictions, and over time, should include a path for citizenship for legal workers here.

For a foreign national to operate a business in the US, the minimum price is 500k for a US investor visa. Investor visas are pricey for a good reason...America wants investors with money.
If 15k foreign nationals could operate businesses here tomorrow, we would have effectively created a barrio. We would have an enormous percentage lined up for food stamps and relief, and we would have vendors lined up on Beach Road selling from food carts. That is not what we want for Saipan.

I know three people who recently applied for and received US investor visas and that is 3 great additions to the commonwealth. One has 30 CWs working already.
Business operators here had the wonderful opportunity to participate in the transitional investor program for a 100k minimum investment. Any foreign national that did not participate in that has no excuse and absolutely no right to operate a business in America.

Let’s be straight, many foreign nationals came here as tourists, liked it here, got a job, later started a business, hired themselves to give themselves a working permit, and even took an umbrella to be on the safe side, and are now asking for a green card so they can operate their business legally even though they never even paid the 100k…and the US plans to put scammers out of business. That is the whole point of federalization, to end the shame created by a failed and broken system.

The CW will be fair and just for everyone, you will see.

I don’t get your point about teachers’ salaries, as my businesses are incorporated with my wife.

I will look forward to illegal pretend real estate brokers and scamming land salespeople to be sent packing back to wherever they came from. Investors like security and law. The primary concern for investors here has always been the same question “the the NMI US or not”. Being US means rule of law and justice, and when you can’t answer that question “yes”, it makes you a banana republic.

Melberlin said...

The Teacher... you mean to say if the guest workers here have improved their status and become permanent resident/US citizen they are not allowed to have their own business? That they have to be screened and required to pay 500K? We are not talking here foreign investors, we are talking about person when they have an improved status (there is already an existing law on foreign investor requirements). With the Fed in the island, quack businesses will not stay longer because they soon gone because they loss their dignity and reputation and can no longer hired anybody (small island right?). You can not stop an improved status person to establish his own business, it's a law, they have the right. And you cannot change it.

About the salary? that explained that there are lots of guest workers here who have the capability financially to establish their own business.

the teacher said...

PS The idea of the transition period is to sepeate legally employed workers from freelancers, illegals, and illegal business operators. The 2 year umbrella stalled the transition period for 2additional years by saving illegal foreign business operators. Without the umbrella, DHS could quickly ascertain who is legally employed and who isn't, who is operating their own business and employing themselves and who isn't. That is why the US has not made a commitment to give green cards in 2014, because if they did, it would be asking for fraud and overstayers to hang on.

By 2014, the US should have seperated the legal workers from the scammers and will, in my opinion, offer permenent residence for the real contract workers. The US will never immediatly give the equivelent of US investor visa status to thousands (and I don't know the number) of cheap operators doing business here because it would be a crime to local citizens, struggling themselves to survive, and they would then be forced to compete with a horde of new operatos. The US will never do that. I realize many business operators are very worried about this, but if they could afford a visa and didn't take the 100k bargain, they made a business mistake. If they could not afford the minimum investment, they have no right to operate in America.

Anonymous said...


You are right. Any U.S. citizen can own a business in the CNMI.

Melberlin said...

The teacher... you are right about new foreign investors that will be coming in... they should be screened to determine that they are fair businesses.
But what we are arguing here is the right of future green card holder or citizen (I am not saying they will or will not obtain that, nobody knows yet!).

GC/US need not have to show 500K.
There are a lot of big businesses here (garments?) who victimized thousands of workers; and there are also small businesses here that until now are fair and not cheating employees. Big business can victimized thousands while a small one can victimized only one or two.

Do you think all guest workers if having business here will ALL sell along the Beach Road? Just to remind you that guest workers here have different types of jobs they knew and skilled at. Do you think accountants, managers, teachers or engineers will be a vendor? Nope (maybe? but rare), so each of guest workers here will have a different type of business they own.
Business is gamble, if you succeed or not; but fraud and scam business is another story that i am not going to argue with you.

Therefore if the Gov is worried about having guest workers with business that will disadvantage locals, they always have the power to regulate to protect not only locals but also all residents here.
This is a small island that you can easily discover or determine the existence of fraud businesses (that they gave little attention into it before). Now that the Feds are it will be effective to attend into this.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

the teacher said...

I am 100% aware that US citizens and permenent residents can own a business here without an investor visa.

The reason for the investor rules and CW program are to seperate the legal contract workers from the quack, as you call, businesses.

The US will never improve the status of anyone here until they can sort the groups out. That is the reason for the CW program and the transition period.

This answers many complicated problems and will protect workers and local residents. A legal, employed guest worker has nothing to fear. Foreign nationals operating businesses will have no status to operate here.

Look at the number of foreign nationals employing themselves in construction, taxis, boat opertors, car repair, shop operators, car washes, vegitable vendors, hair salons, and many others that have never paid even a CNMI visa investment, and that is the reason for the CW program and the transition peiod.

Save his carbon credits said...

Bury him here. I'm sure he won't mind.