Glen Hunter's Testimony on House Joint Resolution 17-4

May 10, 2010


Today at 2:00pm a public hearing on the proposed joint resolution opposing the DOI Report is being held in the House Chamber. Written testimony is being accepted before the hearing and oral testimony will be taken during the hearing.

Glen Hunter's eloquently written testimony, which is directed to the members of the 17th Legislature, reflects the sentiments of many residents of the CNMI.


Testimony of Glen Hunter (Concerned Citizen)
to the 17th CNMI Legislature on House Joint Resolution 17-4

I would like to provide testimony in regards to any resolution that the 17th CNMI Legislature is planning to adopt in response to the Secretary of the Interior’s Report on the Alien Worker Population in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (Interior report).

Rather than taking at face value the articles that ran in the local papers this week, I would like to believe that you, our elected officials, will not rush to judgment and take any official positions on the Interior report without first consulting thoroughly with the individuals you represent. I am one of your constituents and I would like to use this opportunity to inform you of my position on the Interior report.

I am sure that before moving forward with any resolution you will be gathering and receiving many more testimonies from other members of our close-knit community. I would like to commend you in advance for taking all opinions and recommendations from the community into consideration before acting on any measure that may have been drafted in haste.

I love the CNMI and I have been blessed with the privilege of being able to call it my home for the last 36 years. I am a US Citizen and a resident of the CNMI. I have voted in every CNMI election since 1993 and I have watched the entire life cycle of our CNMI guest worker system from its inception in the early 1980s to its conclusion just last year. While we can sit back and in hindsight rip apart and criticize our past CNMI immigration system, let us turn towards the CNMI’s future rather than dwell on its past.

Tony Pellegrino said it best when he said, “We have diamonds beneath our feet”. So many opportunities abound. I see a future in which the CNMI is a world class, high-end tourist destination. I see a future in which we are the Pacific leaders in the agriculture and aquaculture fields. I see a future in which we set a shining example for the world in regards to environmental conservation and protection of marine sanctuaries. I see so much more, too.

The future I speak of, the future I see, is not decades away. It is upon us now. As I write this, schools in the CNMI are honing the skills needed to farm-raise numerous food items in new and innovative ways. Hotels and resorts are upgrading facilities and vendors are streamlining and developing advanced optional tour offerings. At this moment the Northern Mariana Islands are now home to the one of the largest protected oceanic zones in the world. There are many other exciting projects underway, and still more opportunities yet to be discovered.

Our future progress depends on our ability to stabilize one of the most cherished resources our islands have to offer: our workforce.

Our workforce is a diverse mixture of individuals and skill sets that we need to ensure that our economy continues moving forward. Just as the islands have been for centuries, we are today made up of many people from near and far that have come to these shores and made their homes. Some people have been actively invited or recruited, others have sought these islands out, a few have stumbled upon us by accident, and some were simply passing through only to end up staying. Many have been here for generations.

These individuals have the skillsets required to dig down beneath the surface of our islands and extract our diamonds.

We can therefore be comforted by the fact that no recommendation contained in the Interior report drastically alters the makeup of our fragile workforce. Each and every recommendation would allow our currently shaky economy to stabilize, and move towards a brighter future. I was extremely worried that the Department of Interior would not consider our unique situation in crafting their recommendations, and would instead recommend a simple and abrupt implementation of federal immigration law in the CNMI exactly as it applies in the rest of the nation. I feared that all CNMI guest workers would be required to immediately abide by standard federal nonimmigrant worker procedures. I wondered what would become of the CNMI if all 20,000 CNMI guest workers were forced to exit the CNMI immediately. The effects on our local businesses would have been catastrophic, and the social effects would have been devastating. Truth be told, I had feared this possibility since the onset of federalization.

I am not a strong supporter of big government and for many years have been quite wary of the federal government. In the years, months, and days leading up to the effective date of federal immigration law in the CNMI, I heard from many business colleagues and friends who were fearful and distrusting of the federal government. They said the federal government would be a beast to deal with, and that federal officials do not care about the CNMI or our unique situation. They said that once federalization went into effect we could kiss our entire foreign worker population goodbye. They said that once the federal government took over our borders, we would lose the Russian and Chinese tourist markets. They said the federal immigration bureaucracy was rigid and unforgiving. When our local government issued umbrella permits in a last ditch effort to ensure that our foreign workforce would not be sent packing after November 2009, they said the federal government would not honor those permits and the workers would still have to leave. They even said the canoes from my grandfather’s islands would no longer be allowed to come to these shores once federal immigration law applied here.

All my fears so far have been relieved. First, I discovered that the Secretary of Homeland Security decided to grant parole to Chinese and Russian tourists. Then I learned that the federal government had decided to honor umbrella permits, and more recently even granted parole to foreign workers who failed to get those last minute umbrella permits. And, just last month, another outrigger canoe from Micronesia passed safely through federal waters and was welcomed on the neighboring island of Guam.

But because I am a skeptic, the recent concessions by the federal government made me worry that we would not be so lucky with the submittal of the congressionally mandated Interior report. Once again however I have found that I was afraid for no real reason. The Interior’s recommendations would allow our labor force to remain intact. If Congress does not act on these recommendations soon, however, we may then have real justification to be worried.

Thankfully, where the CNMI is today and where I imagined we would be after federalization are two very different places.

So where do we go from here? Now that DOI has made recommendations that would facilitate the economic recovery and success of the CNMI, it is up to U.S. Congress to act on these recommendations. I understand from the newspapers that the CNMI Legislature has drafted a resolution rejecting all the recommendations. I hope that our elected leaders critically weigh the effects that such a resolution could have on our economy if U.S. Congress decides to listen to this resolution and also reject the Interior recommendations. If that happens, all the fears I have just described may indeed come to pass. Federal immigration law may be applied with a broad brush, and many of the hardworking, dependable individuals in our workforce may be lost forever.

Other than my concerns about the economic impact of losing all of our foreign workers here today, I would like to touch briefly on the concerns I have heard from others about the social impact of Interior’s recommendations. One of the most prevalent fears I have heard about is in regard to voting rights. I know that a few people are worried that contract workers will vote if granted status. I have grown up with many of the contract workers on this island, and their children. We all must realize that after so many years, many of them and their children are already voting in the CNMI. I find nothing wrong with a guest worker who has been in the CNMI for many years being allowed to vote. At the moment any US Citizen from anywhere can move here and vote after 90 days. Why would it bother me if a person who has been here for 5 years is allowed to vote? I do not understand this reasoning.

Finally, another concern I have heard is that foreign workers will leave the CNMI if they are granted status. But the truth is that nothing has prevented any worker from ever leaving the CNMI at any time, for any reason, to almost any location. I have no problem with a guest worker having the ability to leave the CNMI if he so chooses. One can safely assume, however, that most of the people who have lived here for five or more years do consider this place home, and I find it difficult to believe that a vast majority of them would simply get up and leave should Congress act on any of the Interior recommendations. Long term guest workers in the CNMI are no different from anyone else who has lived here for many years: it is just not that easy to get up and leave the place you call home. Clearly not every skilled and capable U.S. citizen has left the CNMI today. I count myself as one. Skilled and capable guest workers who have already lived here for many years will also feel strongly about staying, as I do, and will continue to call this place home.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit these comments. Should you have any other concerns or wish to speak to me directly, feel free to call me ...
Date: 5/09/2010

Glen D. Hunter
Concerned CNMI Resident

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

What great points. May they have an open mind to the voices from the community.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr. Hunter for intelligent opinions.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Glen, you're such a nice guy as Tina.

Anonymous said...

As an Indigenous Chamorro I would like to thank you for this wonderful testimony. Your ideas expressed with such clarity, in a down to Earth way, but with passion, and utter power to convince, are truly inspiring.

I can't but applaud the truth of your testimony!

Tom Cruz

malou berueco said...

You said IT ALL Glenn!...The sentiments of CNMI residents (U.S. and non-U.S. citizens)...
My husband for one is a highly skilled worker and doesn't have plan of leaving the island...He said, "I will go back to Philippines when my skills are not needed here anymore."

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Glen,
You & Tina are true friends of every guest workers. We may not say it to you in person but you are in our hearts. May your opinions & beliefs together with a lot of indigenous chamorros continue to be with us as we strugle in our quest for improved status and be permanently lived in this beautiful island we consider HOME.

Captain said...

Very well said.
The question is, will they listen? Doubt it. Most of the elected are blinded by their lack of educations and the "Fear" of losing power.

Anonymous said...

MAY THE REST OF OUR LOCALBROTHERS AND CONCERNED US CITIZENS STAND AND COME UP WITH SIMILAR SENSIBLE COMMENTS AND LETTERS ADDRESSED,,THANK U SIR!!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately Glen, racism and grasping onto power, seem to trump common sense and what's beneficial to the islands. We'll see how right I am about this. I say I'm spot on and the resolution will pass. These jokers don't give a rat's as@ about the Commonwealth.

Anonymous said...

Glen looks damn good for 36. I would have never guesses.

sue said...

MR. G HUNTER, thank you for such a wonderful and open-minded letter. OCW needs more people like you, understanding and accepting us with a compassionate heart as a part of this community as a whole. LET US HOPE AND PRAY THAT MANY PEOPLE IN CONGRESS LIKE YOU WILL GIVE THIS OPPORTUNITY AND REWARD TO OCW IN CNMI!

human said...

Thank you Glen...

Anonymous said...

Glenn Hunter skilled? He sells beer for a living! LOL!

Anonymous said...

8:28 at least he doesn't kiss a** to Fitial with a government job!

Anonymous said...

Glenn's testimony is so heart warming but it did not succeed to melt the heart of th "ass kissers". I was actually expecting that result, (17-0)those leaders will not listen, that testimony hearing was just a show.

It says in the newspaper that they will hold a meeting with the people, village by village about the DOI recommendations. What's the use? We already know what these politicians would conclude. Conclusions drawn before hyphotesizing.
Or maybe, they have valid agenda. Black Propaganda. I just hope that this will not spearhead a "hate campaign" to aliens.

Anonymous said...

Glenn's testimony is so heart warming but it did not succeed to melt the heart of th "ass kissers". I was actually expecting that result, (17-0)those leaders will not listen, that testimony hearing was just a show.

It says in the newspaper that they will hold a meeting with the people, village by village about the DOI recommendations. What's the use? We already know what these politicians would conclude. Conclusions drawn before hyphotesizing.
Or maybe, they have valid agenda. Black Propaganda. I just hope that this will not spearhead a "hate campaign" to aliens.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Glen doesn't sell beer for a living. Not that there is anything at all wrong with that.

Good testimony. There is a fundamental question that needs to be answered in the CNMI, and that is at the root of issues like this one. "Does the CNMI prescribe to the ideals of the United States of America?" I think the honest answer is "no". This being the case, why did we opt to become part of it? If we believe we should have a labor population that is made up of a majority of non-resident workers, three times the population of residents in fact, who have no course towards citizenship, who are disenfranchised and unempowered, then we do not prescribe to the ideals of the USA. Instead of wasting time on resolutions, the Legislature, if it feels this way, should work on the process to emancipate ourselves from the USA. I think the CNMI will do just fine without help from Uncle Sam. NOT.

Anonymous said...

You cannot tell something to somebody who is pretending to be deaf. You cannot wake up somebody who is pretending to be asleep. For many years I have witnessed how CNMI transformed into good to bad especially when it comes to politics.The best thing that ever happened to CNMI was to have 4 way driving lanes and stop lights under Froilan Tenorio. Can you tell me more and under who's governorship? For guest workers, it is hard to be disenfranchised but at the same time blinded by dollar conversion rate, false contentment and love for family. Yeah, this is our home where we spent over half of our lives but CNMI wants us to always be their unfairly treated guests [of course not all people or employers do this but majority]. Improved status will happen just like the federalization no matter how CNMI opposed it. One way or the other lucky ones will get it but maybe no longer in yours or my lifetime. Peace to all!!!

the teacher said...

Nice job Glenn, chip away chip away. Someday this place will be te Gateway to the Orient, the Pride of the Pacfic, and America in Asia.

the teacher said...

Nice job Glenn, chip away chip away. Someday this place will be te Gateway to the Orient, the Pride of the Pacfic, and America in Asia.

malou berueco said...

anon 8:28am
AT LEAST GLEN IS NOT SELLING HIS PRINCIPLES FOR A LIVING!
whether he sells or not-what's your point?
God spread the words that we should love one another. And no one is an alien in the world He created. Are we all buying and following that?
God Bless Your Heart!

Anonymous said...

From Glen:
"But the truth is that nothing has prevented any worker from ever leaving the CNMI at any time, for any reason, to almost any location".
Any location except the USA.
You can post a thousand comments and start a hundred rumors, but in the long and short run this is going to come down to the raging debate in the Mainland about immigration and about the power for local people to run their island, however poorly.
My prediction? Because our immigration is now in the hands of a government that has done a terrific job of hiding it's head in the sand for decades, I think we can predict it to take the same course. Extended Umbrella permits anyone 2yrs, 5yrs, 10yrs...anyone?

Anonymous said...

Noni 4:39,

As you have quoted from Glen Hunter's testimony, he clearly said "almost any location."

That said, I do know quite a few CNMI guest workers who were in fact able to move to the Guam and the US mainland, mostly sponsored by employers who helped them get green cards. It's possible. It's been done. So there.

I also know guest workers who have moved on to Canada, New Zealand, the UK, Australia, Dubai, etc. Many of them are permanent residents today. Why? Because they are skilled and hardworking, and more enlightened places recognized their value.

I think it's beyond sick to suggest that granting citizenship to another person would mean they would leave the first chance they get.

As if we have ever had the right or the ability to force anyone to stay here, regardless of their citizenship.

Besides, improved status means security. Security means people have one more reason to stay. If we don't treat people with respect, and we don't believe they should ever be allowed to become a permanent part of the community, why should they stay? Why should we expect them to?

Anonymous said...

Actually "anonymous" above, many non-resident workers, like accountants, pharmacists, and engineers, have moved on to Guam and the mainland over the years via work visas.

Anonymous said...

The CNMI's first five traffic lights were installed in April 1993 under Governor Lorenzo I. Deleon Guerrero, not Froilan C. Tenorio. The major widening of our highways occurred immediately before that.

Both were paid for with federal funds.

Anonymous said...

There are only first four of the traffic lights (As Perdido, Nauru, MHS and Msgr Guerrero) under Governor Lorenzo I. Deleon Guerrero, and next one under Froilan C. Tenorio.

Anonymous said...

Noni's quote:
"That said, I do know quite a few CNMI guest workers who were in fact able to move to the Guam and the US mainland, mostly sponsored by employers who helped them get green cards. It's possible. It's been done. So there."

That's my point!! In the past, it went like this. One of my employees says they had to go to Guam for their Green Card Interview. A few months later they get their Green Card and and month or two later I get their Letter of Resignation. We have party and off they go. I did a little research and found that of all the people in my company that had recently recieved a green card ALL BUT ONE, as already left and they will probably leave this summer Don't says it's "sick" that people will do this.
And as far as the list of other countries they can go to. Yes, they can, but they don't. Why? They are waiting to see what type of status they will get so they can to the USA.
And you are correct when you say we (I assume the general population and the government) do not have the right to force people to stay here. Name me one person that is being forced to stay here? Just one. Give their name to paper of KSPN and we will help them get off the island. No one in the general population wants to keep someone here against their will.

Anonymous said...

"ALL BUT ONE, as already left and they will probably leave this summer "


Recheck your logic.

The reason why ALL BUT ONE of the many guest workers in the past that applied for and received Green Cards left the island is because that was the exact point for their initial application.

The Green Card is not the reason they left.

They needed to obtain a Green Card to leave.

They had decided to leave and therefor applied for a Green Card.

Do not mistake that to mean that anyone who gets a green card will leave.

Remember that in the past 30 years, no contract worker needed to apply or get a green card to remain in the CNMI.

Going forward they will need status, an H-type visa, a green card or US Citizenship to remain in the CNMI.

That is exactly why they are speaking out and requesting status or US Citizenship. Many guest workers would like to remain in the CNMI. The place they now consider home

Anonymous said...

times they are' a changin.

Anonymous said...

Anon8:28am Whats wrong of selling beer?ya know what?!i'ii give you a little trivia about beer,did you know that in europe a rich man named SHCINDLER brought cases of beers to the German soldiers who guarded hundreds of slaves inside the long train just to give these slaves water to drink!?Glen is a nice Guy!!

Anonymous said...

If someone offered Jane Mack 120,000 or 180,000 a year to work in the mainland doing the exact same job she does now, she would probably jump on it. The same is true for foreign workers. If they are currently making 1/3 of what they can make somewhere else, most will relocate for the new job.

New Zealand is filipino hiring nurses, but not until they take a one year $20,000 bridge course, which leaves out most CNMI guest workers. Australia is hiring filipino accountants, but not until they complete a 2 year bridge program costing $40,000, leaving out most CNMI guest workers as well. Saudi and UAE are hiring female skilled workers without any special certifications, but a monthly salary of 3800 Riyals comes out to about $6/hr.

Anonymous said...

Foreign workers don't support increased private sector wages, because they (1) are afraid to speak up, and (2)deep inside they know that the higher the wages, the more competition they will have with locals for jobs.

Local workers have no excuse.

If the CW visa regulations come out with wage-bands per occupational category, I guarantee half the non-resident workers will not have jobs by the end of their umbrella permit. If no wage bands are included and employers can pay $4.55/hr for a skilled worker, then you will see an increase in off-island hires.