The Ominous Omnibus Bill Now PL17-1

March 22, 2010

The Omnibus Bill H.B. 17-25 was drafted and promoted by "special" counsel to the governor, Howard Willens, supported by CNMI Department of Labor Deputy Secretary Cinta Kaipat, introduced by Covenant Party member Rafael S. Demapan and passed by both the CNMI House and Senate. The bill has been titled the "Immigration Conformity Act of 2010" and became PL17-1, when Governor Fitial signed it yesterday.

As I reported when I reviewed Willens' draft in January 2010, the CNMI government takes immigration duties, functions and authority and relabels them to labor duties, functions and authority by merely changing words. They are crossing out entry permit (immigration function) and replacing it with foreign national identification card (immigration function). Look at this section of the bill:
Q. Division 4 (Immigration), Part 3 (Employment), Chapter 6 (Employment of Foreign Nationals) is renumbered Chapter 3 and is amended to change
the terms “Director of Labor” and “Director” to “Department,” and to change the terms “entry permit” and “permit” to “identification card,”
Mere word changes do not change the intent, function, duty or authority.

I am sure that foreign nationals consider the requirement of registration with the CNMI DOL and a foreign national ID one of the most offensive provisions in the law. It states:
(a) Every alien who remains in the Commonwealth longer than 90 days shall by regulation be required to be registered. Registration shall be renewed annually. The parents or legal guardians of aliens under the age of 18 are responsible for such child’s registration.
(b) Registration shall be conducted by the Department for all classes of aliens. Registration information may be taken on oath or by declaration. Such registration information as the Secretary may require is confidential and may be made available only on request of law enforcement authorities in connection with criminal or juvenile delinquency investigations.
(c) Registered aliens will be issued an identification card, which will contain the name of the alien, the LIDS number, such identifying information as the Secretary may require, and the expiration date of the card.
(d) Registered aliens 18 years old or older shall keep their identification card in their personal possession or control at all times.
(e) Any alien who knowingly fails to comply with this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than 90 days, or fine of not more than $500 or both.
This provision shows:
  • A great disrespect for the foreign nationals, especially with the punishment of jail time and a costly fine of $500 for not having the ID "in their personal possession or control at all times." At the CNMI minimum wage, the $500 fine represents the equivalent of several weeks to a month's pay after deduction and taxes.
  • An attempt by the local government to maintain control and authority over the foreign national employment and immigration.
  • That the CNMI government desires to continue to use the foreign nationals to fill their coffers by charging them fees for permits and by authorizing an unreasonable fine for not having the ID in their possession.
  • That the registration information may not be shared with federal authorities: " Such registration information as the Secretary may require is confidential and may be made available only on request of law enforcement authorities in connection with criminal or juvenile delinquency investigations."
Yet, the main question about the foreign national identification cards is how will CNMI officials enforce the requirement that requires foreign nationals over age 18 to have the ID in their possession? Will foreign nationals be harassed on the street? Stopped in restaurants, shops or even in their own homes? Pulled over by law enforcement officials when driving? Who will be the enforcers? DOL officials? Police officers? Can these enforcers stop anyone who they think is a foreign national and demand to see their CNMI-issued ID? On what grounds?

There is no other state in the United States that registers foreign nationals. How can a local government require this? On what grounds since they have no authority over the foreign workforce?

The law requires the foreign national to have not only an umbrella permit, but a foreign national ID card. It states:
"Adding a new subsection 4925(e) to read: “Umbrella permits issued by the Department continue in full force and effect until revoked. Each holder of an umbrella permit must also hold a current identification card.”
The federal government has already stated that they recognize the umbrella permits until 2011. Why do the foreign nationals need another permit?

Another change is: "Amend i. Deleting the word “deportation” and substituting the word “repatriation” and deleting the word “deportable” and substituting the words “subject to repatriation.” Subject to repatriation by whom? This is not federal law and only the federal government can deport a foreign national.

There is much more in the law that is questionable. For one thing, the required quotas of U.S. citizen employees that businesses must maintain.

I would not go to the CNMI DOL for any renewal of umbrella permits or to get a foreign national ID before I checked with the federal ombudsman. I would follow what the federal officials have stated.


Anonymous said...

This sound a lot like the Holocaust...Next thing you know they will have to wear a symbol on their sleeve. Makes me sad. :(

Anonymous said...

"There is no other state in the United States that registers foreign nationals. How can a local government require this? On what grounds since they have no authority over the foreign workforce?"

The United States INS registers foreign nationals all the time. The CNMI does have authority over the foreign workforce. They can be deported if they break the law for example.

I support hiring of US Citizens. The United States Department of Homeland security will phase out the guest worker program in a few short years Wendy. How else can US Citizens start building their careers? In this depression era economy you favor foreign workers over Americans? How shocking.

the teacher said...

This is simply meant to continue the two tiered system of servitude. Check the function of other states regarding labor and you will find that labors function in Texas, Ohio, or any other state is not to control labor or handcuff them to employers, it is exactly the opposite.

The function of a state labor department is worker safety, employer compliance to law, ensure their civil rights haven't been violated, to monitor for child labor, check for valid bonding and workman’s compensation payments, set insurance guidelines, check prevailing wage compliance, and a myriad of other duties that protect workers, not chain them to the job.

Can we now arrest a group of CGWs for loitering (because they don't own the land) or vagrancy, chain them at their ankles to provide the Governor and long lost Congress massagee services?

Wendy said...

Anonymous 12:33

The INS (USCIS) is FEDERAL department under DHS. The CNMI can NOT deport anyone. That is an immigration act and only the federal government can deport foreign nationals.

Anonymous said...

Can they feed all the 19K+ non-compliant foreign workers for 90 days 3x a day? With lots of foreign workers with no job here, they will chose to be arrested than paying for ID.
Tell me if I will be arrested for violating this law, can the US fed considered me convicted and subject to removal from CNMI?

Saipan Writer said...

In the 1940's the US Supreme Court decided a case called Hines v. Davidowitz, saying Pennsylvania could not have a registration of aliens law because such law was pre-empted by the US immigration laws.

Although immigration has changed and there have been other cases decided, none support state power to requie registration of aliens.

P.L. 17-1 suffers from the same problem as the Pennsylvania law did. It has other problems as well (equal protection likely among them; and failure to recognize the authority of the US law as the basis for determining authority to work.)

The P.L. 17-1 only targets certain foreign workers, and it intrudes on the US's legal authority to decide what aliens are authorized to work; it adds burdens and costs not contemplated by the CNRA. It directly contradicts the CNRA that establishes a transitional worker program in the CNMI under federal authority.

The difficulty will be in the challenge. "Facial" challenges by individual aliens and employers are hard to win, no matter how clear the merits may seem. "As applied" challenges will take foreign workers and employers in all of the varied circumstances challenging each little bit of the law.

11/28/2011 will come before this is sorted out.

In the meantime, the CNMI will boss people around and collect fees.

I can only hope the Feds seeks a declaratory judgment (to be followed by an injunction) against the CNMI, rather than leaving it to individual foreign workers to take on the litigation burden.

Anonymous said...

This week seems to be the happiest week since Jan. 1. Thanks for the entertainment, Cintanas made me laugh so hard, I couldn't compose my letter right away. The house & senate seconded it with a good follow up. My oh my, I'm having indigestion. I wonder what's next. We all need to laugh especially with this economy. We don't need to pay to laugh.

Captain said...

So what this seems to be trying to accomplish is that, at the present, the employees can walk if the employer does not treat them good and keep up his end of the labor agreement, like pay etc.?
As it is now (from the Feds) these workers can change employers at any time for any reason.(as long as they have an "umbrella permit"
The new employer does not have to file with DOL only fill out one form from the Feds.?

So if this is true, it seems like these employers ( and politicians) are worried that they cannot abuse their employees anymore or they will just get up and leave.
As sted, they want the workers "chained" to the employer.

At this moment, and in the past years, it is impossible for any business to make the 20% of "local" that are qualified or WILL work for the prevailing wage in the construction side. (which is higher than minimum wage)
Now how do they expect anybody to make the 30%?
Just plain stupid and no thought on all of this.

I wish I was a foreign worker at this particular time, I would force an arrest and carry this to the courts to see what this local court would do, and see what the verdict and sentence would be.

I am also wondering if this law would really be enforced or if it will be like many of the other useless laws that are ment to "intimidate" and never actually tested.

Especially looking at the past outcomes in the courts on "real" criminal sentencing, "time served, write a letter of apology."
I wonder what these Judicial are thinking about this "new" law..
But I can see a "civil rights" suit coming IF anybody is ever arrested or even hassled about non compliance with this new law.

Would be good to hear some input from some of the lawyers out there.
I read Jane's article on "day in court"prior to the passing of this new "law"

Islander said...


Anonymous said...

The foreign workers do NOT need a national ID. The federal government said that the umbrella permits are recognized until 2011. BOYCOTT DOL just like the blacks boycotted buses. BOYCOTT DOL. NO MORE INTIMIDATION. NO MORE FEES.

Anonymous said...

4:07 You cannot be removed if you are arrested. It is a misdemeanor according to the law.

Anonymous said...

Thanks 4:07 that is for everybody to know.

Anonymous said...

the brains behind the umbrella permit did not expect the FEDs to acknowledge or honor it. it boomeranged. so funny, how can we aliens fit in the cell, much more for being fed? how can they deport us all, charter a plane? use FEDEX plane? humor me more!!!

Anonymous said...

Lawsuits are not the solution to all political, social, or economic issues. Quite to the contrary, they often make things worse, and just make the lawyers rich.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Lawsuits are not the solution to all political, social, or economic issues. Quite to the contrary, they often make things worse, and just make the lawyers rich.

What about Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education, Love v. Virginia, and countless other cases where lawyers fought for political and social issues in the United States?

Lawyers get rich taking on insurance companies, large corporations and individuals, not by protecting the rights of the disenfranchised.