Unheard No More's Picks for CNMI Persons of the Year

January 1, 2010


Unheard No More! recognizes the following people and government offices for their extraordinary contributions to improve the lives of the nonresidents, guest workers and residents in the CNMI during 2009.

Tina Sablan
Freshman Legislator Rep. Tina Sablan may have been the youngest member of the CNMI Legislature, but her accomplishments were among the most significant. She possesses integrity, dignity, perseverance and intelligence. Her vision for good governance and civic participation has caught on as was witnessed by rallies, petitions, and forums. Her push for a more responsible CNMI government has come into focus and is no longer out of reach because of her work.

Most noteworthy, Tina challenged the Fitial Administration in her fight for open government, accountability and disclosure. On September 12, 2008 CNMI Governor Benigno Fitial filed a controversial lawsuit suing the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Labor in an effort to block PL 110-229 with the goal of maintaining control of the dysfunctional CNMI labor and immigration system. The lawsuit had little known public support and no formal support from the CNMI Legislature. It was planned in secrecy with the governor's special legal counsel, Howard Willens and a very small band of his anti-federalization supporters. The governor refused to disclose details about the lawsuit including any contracts and specific fees.

Rep. Sablan filed an Open Government Act request in October 2008 with the Governor and later in December 2008 with then Secretary of Finance Eloy Inos requesting information on the funding sources and contracts related to lawsuit. Both the governor and secretary refused to release the documents. Subsequently, Rep. Sablan filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court in an effort to have the documents released. She won her case. The important case compelled the government to follow the Open Government Act, opening the doors to transparency which will help to prevent back door deals, political schemes, and government secrets in how taxpayer dollars are being spent.

Tina pushed for a more transparent legislature and saw another victory in the November 2009 election when two-thirds of the CNMI voters ratified the Open Government Act popular initiative.

Although she lost her bid for a Senate seat, Tina Sablan will continue to be a powerful political force, mover and reformer in the CNMI. I can see her as the future governor or U.S. delegate.


Rabby Syed
Rabby Syed has dedicated hundreds of hours to advance the rights of guest workers and nonresidents. He came to Saipan in 1997 from Bangladesh and is known as a dedicated family man and as a friend to hundreds of nonresidents and residents.

Throughout 2009, as the leader of the United Workers Movement-NMI, he worked independently and also coordinated with other guest worker groups to organize important events including the May Day Rally, Assembly for the visiting Codel, and USCIS information sessions.

Rabby also worked closely with advocates, CNMI and federal officials and organizations to push for social justice and rights for the nonresidents. Most recently he served as a volunteer during the Alien Registration at the Federal Ombudsman's Office. He also helped to organize gatherings at a local restaurant where nonresidents could come and write comments concerning the DHS rules, and he has been assisting with gathering petition signatures.

I speak to Rabby almost daily. He is remarkably dedicated and has the ability to listen to all sides and views without being judgmental. He is an encouraging, humble and vital leader of the guest worker movement and a supporter of all nonresidents' rights.

Mr. Walt F. J. Goodridge wrote a December 30, 2009 column about a special "Saipanpreneur" Rabby Syed that highlights some of his accomplishments:
Rabby knows the community: He has been a Head Start policy council member, vice president of the International Business Club at NMC, a volunteer for the CNMI Victim Hotline, and a member of CrimeStoppers.

Rabby knows hard work: While pursuing a degree at NMC, he achieved the Phi Beta Kappa "Most Outstanding Student" award. He made the President’s List and the American National Dean's List.

Rabby knows the plight of contract workers: He is the current president of The United Workers Movement-NMI since 2008.

Finally, for the past 10 years, Rabby knows taxis: He is an independent taxi driver, as well as the founder and president of the Saipan City Taxi Association since 2001.

As a result of, and through his myriad involvements, he has developed and expressed his personal passion for helping the CNMI be the best it can be as a place to live, raise a family, and do business.
Federal Ombudsman and Staff
The DOI's Federal Ombudsman, Pam Brown and her staff successfully registered over 20,000 nonresidents in 14 days by serving people during office hours, keeping the office open to midnight and traveling to Rota and Tinian. The ombudsman and staff worked tirelessly with volunteers from guest worker groups to process tens of thousands of registration forms.

The registration was conducted by this federal office for the purpose of gathering accurate and specific information for the report that the U.S. Department of Interior. From the Consolidated Natural Resources Act (P.L. 110-299):
"Report on Nonresident Guestworker Population- 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 enactment of the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008. The report shall include--
(1) the number of aliens residing in the Commonwealth;
(2) a description of the legal status (under Federal law) of such aliens;
(3) the number of years each alien has been residing in the Commonwealth;
(4) the current and future requirements of the Commonwealth economy for an alien workforce; and
(5) such recommendations to the Congress, as the Secretary may deem appropriate, related to whether or not the Congress should consider permitting lawfully admitted guest workers lawfully residing in the Commonwealth on such enactment date to apply for long-term status under the immigration and nationality laws of the United States." The registration form addresses these specific questions and will make it possible for the DOI to submit an accurate report and recommendations.
The ombudsman's office also assisted guest workers and others with questions and concerns on guest worker-related issues and concerns.


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Despite fears of mass confusion and allegations that the federal government was not prepared to implement PL 110-229, the USCIS has worked to ensure a smooth transition from the CNMI to the federal system. Personnel including Janna Evans,the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services community outreach regional lead, Marie Thérèse Sebrecht, USCIS regional media manager, and David Gulick U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services district director for Hawaii, Guam and the CNMI have conducted forums and trainings throughout the CNMI. One held at American Memorial Park in late October 2009 drew hundreds of nonresidents. Their efforts to educate the residents and nonresidents of the CNMI has been exceptional.

The USCIS also held a series of 11 public forums on the new immigration policy throughout the CNMI in December 2009 including two each on Rota and Tinian to educate employers and foreign workers, answer questions, provide an overview of immigration law, and explain the new transitional rules.

Since November 28, 2009 the USCIS-Saipan office has served over 830 people who were requesting information on the new immigration system. USCIS also processed over 400 applications for green cards or permanent residency, and handled 48 cases for naturalization.

CNMI Guest Workers
The estimated 13,000 guest workers have served the CNMI selflessly and skillfully, most for many years, some for the better years of their lives. During 2009 they have organized to highlight their plight and desire for social justice and a pathway to citizenship. They came out in mass for rallies, assemblies, petition drives, registrations and forums to advance their cause for improved status and rights. Many groups including the The United Workers -NMI, The Human Dignity Movement, Philcowa, Coalition of United Workers, Dekada and others have united to make their voices heard and to send a message to Washington. Leaders including Ronnie Doca, Jun Concillado, Itos Feliciano, Rene Reyes, Rabby Syed, Malou Barueco, Boni Sagana and others have workers to ensure that they are unheard no more!

20 comments:

Captain said...

If you look at the accomplishments of these individuals and the USCIS, they have done the work and accommodated the people without any large staff (or none at all)while the DOL and the NMI Immigration (and the rest of the Govt. agencies) have a huge amount of people that cannot seem to get it together for any daily activity.

Look at the Ombudsman office and the amount of people they registered in the short time.
The USCIS and what they have completed for the amount of people, with a small staff, in a short time.

Tina working without any office personal,
Look at her accomplishments and other things she was involved in.

Rabbi Sayad (and others)that have time to handle jobs,family, schooling, and volunteer work.

But as the Gov. and others stated, "the NMI can handle it's dol and Immigration better than the Feds" REALLY????

It seems these two agencies alone cannot count how many Foreign workers are on the Islands, along with other statistics such as who is legal or not.
And many have wondered why the Govt. Is so "Bloated" and nothing gets done with 10 people trying to do one persons job as is the typical Govt practice.(Non qualified and disciplined work force)

I wish and hope for the best New Year for all.Be safe and stay healthy.

Anonymous said...

The picks are spot on! Captain, your comments are spot on too. Happy new year!

the teacher said...

Tina took out the Gov in a landmark case.

Rabby has been a tireless worker who replaced Irene and kept the organization alive.

the Ombuspersons office is also a no-brainer because Pam is a great pick, perhaps the only qualified here to replace Jim, who we hope is busy as well.

The Trib never gets the newspeople right, as most they had this year were infamous, but not noteworthy.

Anonymous said...

Great picks!

Anonymous said...

Teacher,

The Tribune picks newsmakers, good or bad and the paper is owned by Tan. That means the picks would be Fitial-approved.

Anonymous said...

I like your picks too. All are hardworking and dedicated to the community. One comment though. I would have added the U.S. Attorney Office for busting so many ice dealers including the gov's body guard and driver. And the Villagomez and Santos guilty verdict was also a tribute to the U.S. DOJ's hard work. Since it looks like you selected these picks by hard work and dedication kudos to the DOJ too!

Wendy said...

Anonymous 11:08

You are right! Applause for the U.S. DOJ and the dedicated attorneys, FBI and DEA agents!

the teacher said...

9:22

I understand their loyalty but their spin leaves readers to draw erroneous conclusions. For instance, they say Tim V. and the Santos were big newsmakers when I would say Eric O'Malley and the DOJ should take the bows and any awards for newsworthiness. Kilili should have made every list.

Almost all their picks were infamous (Ben & Eloy(who replaced Tim), the shooter, Willens & Seimer (for bad NMI council perhaps), and let's not forget Carman F.).

For many years they printed that the CNMI must stop federalization, and perhaps after reading this spin for 20 years, many are still against federalization and can't explain why.

I would have put our long lost Congress somewhere on the list for inaction, from not eliminating their enormous discretionary spending accounts, to their lack of support for the OGA, to paying Tim for so long, and for generally dumbfounded positions on almost everything.

The teachers 2009 Stupid Shameless Crooks Award goes to the 16th legislature.

Anonymous said...

I would pick Mam Wendy Doromal as person of decade for fighting for OCW rights the longest time. and she is still fighting. THANKS YOU!

Melberlin said...

Likewise with Anon 9:53am above

Anonymous said...

Tina got 5th of out 8 candidates. The only candidates she got more votes than were Greg Cruz (no comment necessary), Paul Camacho (a nobody who has never done anything), and Ana Teregeyo (committed manslaughter last year).

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:51, Was Taregeyo convicted or still awaiting trial?
I know there is supposed to be a law that no convicted person can work for the Govt. for ten years.

Is there not a law that that involves "moral turpitude" that prevents a person for running for a public office. Or do these laws only apply in the "real world, like Guam, US and other US insular areas?

It would not surprise anybody though that nothing would be followed here.
I wonder how many elected have been convicted of crimes.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness for Pamela S. Brown.

She really cares, is not vindictive, and will never be a prosecutor at the USAO or elsewhere.

Three cheers for Pam!

Pam said...

Update on registration. The number of aliens in the CNMI who registered with my office is 21,089. This number includes workers, immediate relatives, students, FAS & other non-US citizens. Illegals are also included in the number. Thanks to everyone for the positive response and community effort to make this happen in so short a time and I hope with little disruption to employers. Happy New Year. Pam Brown, US Labor Ombudsman

The Saipan Blogger said...

I thought the politically correct term was "undocumented?"

Anonymous said...

http://www.saipantribune.com/newsstory.aspx?newsID=79209&cat=1

A 10-year-old boy died when a bicycle he was driving collided with a car being driven by former Rep. Ana S. Teregeyo in lower Dandan Homestead Saturday at noon.

The boy had severe trauma/laceration to the head and abrasions in his lower extremities. A doctor at the Commonwealth Health Center pronounced him dead at 2:40pm, according to the Department of Public Safety yesterday.

Teregeyo, 60, was not arrested after traffic investigators determined that the boy was at fault in the crash.

Anonymous said...

I remember this incedent, this is similar to a recent one in the last couple of days in Guam when the police ran over and killed a "homeless" lady while "possibly" answering a call without any flashing lights or audible device.
The pedestrian just "appeared out of nowhere".
See the "connected" have "no worries" as they are immune and the laws do not apply to them.
It is too bad that this Teregeto was not driving a US Govt car or one that was purchased with US Govt funds.
But no charge and no conviction, soooo?

Anonymous said...

Didn't this happen in a school zone? How could she not be at fault if she exceeded the speed limit in the school zone?

Anonymous said...

She didn't.

Pam said...

Wendy, someone is telling former garment workers to come to the Ombudsman to register for benefits from the class action fund. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Workers should not come to my office as this slows our work finalizing our report for Congress. I hope the word can be spread as quick as they are coming here. Thanks. Pam Brown, US Laobr Ombudsman