The Saipan Tribune reported that the indigenous people will be holding a rally to object to the Department of Interior report. Some of the offensive remarks that were quoted in the Saipan Tribune concerning the upcoming rally could actually help the guest workers to get the understanding and sympathy of the federal government.
Take, for instance, these comments by Ignacio DLG. Demapan, who was sworn in as resident executive director of the Office of Indigenous Affairs yesterday:
Demapan also said guest workers should not be allowed to dictate the future of the CNMI.The guest workers are not dictating the future of the CNMI. The protesting indigenous people are the ones who decided the fate of the CNMI when they voted in a plebiscite to become part of the U.S. family and to be ruled by federal law. Federal law dictates that after 5 years of living and working legally on U.S. soil a person can petition for a green card. The DOI report stated:
“For example, a guest worker who came in as a taxi driver, a guest worker who came in as a strip dancer, a guest worker who came in as a construction worker, now we're going to allow these people to dictate the future of the indigenous people of the Commonwealth? I don't think its right. I don't think it's proper. I think what we should do is have status quo, because they came in under an employment contract,” he added.
Demapan also said guest workers are exactly that-“guests.”
"Consistent with the goals of comprehensive immigration reform, we recommend that the Congress consider permitting alien workers who have lawfully resided in the CNMI for a minimum period of five years to apply for long-term status under the immigration and nationality laws of the United States."The CNRA was intended to align the CNMI immigration and labor laws with those of the United States. That alignment includes applying U.S. naturalization law and a pathway to citizenship for people who work and live in the United States for 5 or more years. To those wondering why there was no breakdown in the DOI report of how long foreign workers have stayed in the CNMi years after 5 years it is because under U.S. law five years is the determinator for status --not 8 or 10 or any other number.
Mr. Demapan insinuates that the 'taxi driver', 'strip dancer' and 'construction worker' are not to be respected or valued. These people did not just row over to the Mariana islands. They were recruited and entered legally. They are in the CNMI because the indigenous people wanted them there to serve them and to fill positions that the indigenous people could not fill. The truth is that Mr. Demapan and others only want the foreign workers to remain in the CNMI if they are to be disenfranchised.
Mr Demapan complains that guests are invited for a specific period of time and the guest workers should leave when their contracts are up. The foreign workers were renewed year after year after year making them permanent residents without social and political rights in conflict with American ideals.
Another organizer also does not appear to understand that the foreign workers were continually renewed:
Diego Blanco, who is also one of the organizers for the rally, pointed out that he and the rest of the organizers do not have ill-feelings toward foreign workers, whom they said have helped build the CNMI economy.News flash! When the CNMI government and indigenous people allowed thousands of foreign workers to enter the CNMI and stay in the CNMI for years and even decades they were responsible for making themselves a minority. The indigenous people are a minority whether or not the foreign workers get status. What Blanco and Demapan imply is that the indigenous people will accept being a minority as long as they are the masters over their slaves. As long as they can control the workforce, cheat the workforce, fail to enforce laws, and keep the majority of the population oppressed.
“I want to emphasize that I have nothing against guest workers. We appreciate their contributions to the economy,” said Blanco, who is also a member of the Commonwealth Zoning Board and the business development manager for GPPC Inc.
'We don't want to be minority.'
...He said guest workers who came to work in the CNMI under an employment contract should go home once that contract expires.
Why did CNMI law allow for the employers to continually renew the foreign workers' contracts if the indigenous people and voters did not want the foreign workers to remain in the islands? The truth is that the foreign workers were and are needed and should be respected and treated as equals and not as replaceable commodities.
The article also states that the indigenous people have an online petition with over 800 signatures. The on-line and hand written signatures on the petition that I delivered to Washington, DC in February 2010 had over 7,000 signatures of nonresidents and residents supporting a direct pathway to citizenship for the foreign workers and other categories of nonresidents. Many who signed were indigenous people.
The indigenous people can reject the idea of status for long-term foreign workers and watch as most of the skilled and dedicated foreign workers exit of the private sector killing the already suffering economy. Or they can accept that federal laws apply in the CNMI and welcome the long-term foreign workers as equals. If the CNMI leaders and people don't want to see the foreign workforce leave by 2014, they must accept that it is time for the disenfranchised indentured servants to be given U.S. status.
Angelo Villagomez wrote an excellent letter to the editor yesterday that highlighted a letter written in 1998 by his father father, Ramon Garrido Villagomez. The letter outlines nine promises that the CNMI government made to the United States in 1998 claiming to reform the abusive and corrupt CNMI labor and immigration system.
These include: (1) putting a moratorium on the hiring of guest workers, (2) capping the number of guest workers in the garment industry and the size of that industry, (3) weeding out corruption in the labor and immigration offices, (4) prosecuting employers and closing down businesses who abuse guest workers, (5) prohibiting the number of guest workers from exceeding the number of U.S. citizens in the CNMI, (6) allowing guest workers to transfer from one occupation to another and from one employer to another, (7) allowing illegal aliens to become legal under the amnesty law, (8) expediting the deportation of illegal aliens, and (9) limiting the number of years that a guest worker may stay in the CNMI.Angelo pointed out correctly that every one of those 'reform measures' was broken.
I am writing now out of concern about, certain labor practices in the islands that are inconsistent with our country's values. More than half of the people in the islands are temporary alien workers; these workers, who comprise an overwhelming majority of the islands' work force, are imported to fill permanent jobs, while the jobless rate among residents remains high; the minimum wage is plainly inadequate; there have been persistent incidents of improper treatment of alien workers and inadequate enforcement of their rights; and manufacturers using foreign workers unfairly compete with other production under the U.S. flag.
Federal officials have, for many year's, strongly encouraged Commonwealth officials to rectify these problems and have provided substantial assistance for doing so, but the problems persist and, in some cases, are getting worse. I have, therefore, concluded that federal immigration, naturalization, and minimum wage laws should
now be applied to the Commonwealth, as provided by the Covenant.
My Administration will work with the Congress to extend these laws in a reasonable and appropriate manner. We will, of course, consult with you and other representatives of the Commonwealth about how these laws should be applied.
The contract workers who have lived on Saipan more than five years have earned the right to petition for United States citizenship. I stand by my father's words and offer my support in helping the long toiling contract workers become the newest members of the American family.Please take the time to read Angelo's entire letter here.
Another letter writer, written by Segundo Castro of the Saipan Tinian Student Association, expressed thanks DOI Assistant Secretary Tony Babauta for the DOI Report. He stated:
The contract workers in the CNMI contributed to our economic growth for years. In accordance with the United States immigration regulations and guidelines, most of these individuals are qualified to become United States citizens. Let us support them to become United States citizens as a token of appreciation on our part. Mr. Tony Babauta is a godsend to the CNMI, because he would be the instrument to make it happen. Si Yu'us Ma'ase siñot Tony Babauta.The foreign contract workers are not dictating what the U.S. Congress will decide as some allege. They are appealing for justice. Freedom of speech is one of the few rights that they possess.
Keep speaking! Do not be intimidated and do not let anyone silence you. Such actions as an employer telling you that you may not participate in an event or warning you not to sign a petition are illegal and you can report any such incidences to the federal ombudsman and the U.S. Department of Labor.