Public Hearing on Resolution 17-4

May 10, 2010

Today at 2:00 a public hearing will be held to discuss the 10-page House Joint Resolution 17-4 that opposes the Department of Interior Report. The CNMI Legislature's website states:
H. J. R. 17-4
To express the grave concern about and objection of the Seventeen Northern Marianas Commonwealth Legislature, the House and the Senate, to the Report on the Alien Worker Population in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands that was prepared by the Secretary of the Interior, which includes recommendations that do not serve the best interest of the Commonwealth, that was submitted to the United States Congress without review or consultation with the Governor or the Legislature of the Commonwealth as mandated in P.L. 110-229; and strongly urging the United States Congress to reject the said recommendations until such time the Government of the United States and the Government of the Northern Mariana Islands meet together pursuant to Section 902 of the Covenant to formalize the DOI Secretary’s Report. (and its recommendations.)
REP. RAFAEL S. DEMAPAN of Saipan, Precinct 2 (for himself and Representative Frederick P. Deleon Guerrero)
It will be interesting to see which legislators support this resolution.

The resolution contains unfounded statements such as this one quoted by the Marianas Variety:
“The House and the Senate of the 17th Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Legislature believe that the secretary of the Interior, by acting alone in the preparation and presentation to Congress of the Report on the Alien Workers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands deliberately deceived the indigenous people…by not consulting first with the governor…. And that the DOI secretary did not take into serious consideration the applicable provisions of the Covenant when preparing for the presentation of the said report to Congress.”
The CNMI governor and the members of the CNMI legislature knew that a report on the status of the foreign workers was mandated and due on May 10, 2010. They had two years to discuss this issue. In fact, previously the governor stated publicly that if the DOI recommended green cards for the foreign workers, he would not object.

Why then did the CNMI leaders wait until after the report was issued to express any opposing opinions?

At the May 2009 hearing Governor Fitial stated this in his testimony:
Status of Foreign Workers in the Commonwealth
I understand that the status of foreign workers in the Commonwealth is a subject of interest to this Subcommittee. This is obviously a matter of great concern to the entire Commonwealth community, especially those foreign workers who have contributed so much to the CNMI over the years.
A specific provision affording long-term status to certain foreign workers lawfully in the Commonwealth was contained in the bills that were the subject of Congressional hearings in 2007. I think it is fair to say that this proposal was a very divisive one - with a wide range of views regarding its fairness, its impact on the CNMI economy, its potential reshaping of the social and political character of the Commonwealth, and its consistency with overall US immigration policy. Based on these and other concerns, the Committees in both Houses elected to strike this provision from the bills that eventually became Public Law 1 10-229.
As enacted, the law requires the Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Governor of the Commonwealth, to submit a report on this subject to the Congress not later than two years after the enactment of the law on May 8,2008. The report is now due in about one year. It must contain specific information regarding the number of aliens residing in the Commonwealth, their legal status under federal law, their length of residence in the CNMI, and the current and future requirements of the Commonwealth economy for an alien workforce. The Secretary's report also must contain recommendations whether Congress should consider permitting certain of these guest workers to apply for long-term status under the US immigration laws.
The Commonwealth suggests that future consideration of this issue be deferred until this report is submitted to Congress by the Secretary of the Interior. By that time, the overall review of immigration policy promised by President Obama should be underway. Such a review certainly will be addressing the claims of large groups of aliens in the United States for an improved status and it is in that context that we believe the Commonwealth's situation should be evaluated.
Fitial further responded to this provision of the CNRA by refusing to share the data and statistics that were needed for the report forcing the federal ombudsman to collect the needed data.

The DOI Report does not conflict with the Covenant.

The resolution contains racial undertones such as in this statement:
“Unlike the U.S. Virgin Islands, these 20,859 aliens are not blood related to the indigenous people of the Northern Mariana Islands and mostly came to work in the CNMI from the Philippines, Korea, China, Thailand, Bangladesh and other Asian countries."
Of course, because I do not have a copy of the proposed resolution, this statement could be taken out of context. But it certainly sounds racist. Such a pity that the leaders of the CNMI had to settle for unrelated foreigners from Asian countries to comprise their indentured, disenfranchised underclass rather than 20,000 "blood-related" aliens.

The resolution makes bold and untrue claims including that the CNMI is more "like a state" than a territory. Huh?

It attempts to rewrite history:
“At present, there are approximately 16,000 registered voters in the Northern Mariana Islands. Of that figure, approximately 3,000 represent non-indigenous Chamorro or Carolinians. If Congress conferred U.S. citizenship to the 16,000 aliens, that will place the number of non-indigenous voters to 20,000 and the indigenous Chamorro and Carolinians to 13,000. That will immediately change the demographics of the CNMI, making the indigenous Chamorro and Carolinians the minority in their own islands.”
Actually, the demographics of the CNMI changed forever when the CNMI legislators first established the foreign work program and brought in tens of thousands of foreign workers. It was the CNMI legislators that made the indigenous people a "minority in their own islands."

UPDATED with link to House Joint Resolution 17-4