A SEA OF PEOPLE: Thousands Join Motorcade and Assembly

A sea of people cover the hill at American Memorial Park
Photos by Junhan Todeno ©2010

May 16, 2010

The unified motorcade and assembly was a huge success. Foreign workers who contacted me estimate that there were well over one thousand cars in the motorcade and over 5,000 people gathered at the assembly at American Memorial Park. Those attending were foreign workers and U.S. citizens including indigenous supporters.

Khondaker reported that the stands were filled and people spilled over to the grass in front and in back of the stage. There was no space in the stands to accommodate all the people. Cars were parked down the streets and some had to walk long distance to get to American Memorial Park.

Rabby Syed said:
I am very happy with the turnout and this shows that alien workers and the indigenous people in the CNMI are willing to support the recommendation of the Department of Interior. I am urging the US Congress to take a quick action on the recommendation.
At the same time I am extending my thanks to the local community and to all those who are supporting us. I also want to thank the DPS for assisting with traffic and providing safety.
Workers reported that the speeches were inspiring and that they are ready to continue their fight for political and social justice. Guest workers said that the speakers included Dr. Gene Sylvester Eagle-Oden, Glen Hunter who read a message from Tina Sablan, Sister Stella, attorney Jane Mack, attorney Steve Woodruff, Rabby Syed, and a physician from CHC.

I am honored that the daughter of foreign workers, Hazel Doctor, read my statement. Hazel is a senior in high school and a U.S. citizen. Hazel also spoke when the Codel visited Saipan in August 2009. (Read her inspiring statement here.) Thank you Hazel!

The foreign workers reported that Mr Francisco dela Cruz, a 77-year-old Chamorro, said that the foreign workers deserve improved status and that the indigenous people should support the recommendations of the DOI report.

In separate news, Yho Villavicenio reported that a national Filipino group based in San Francisco has joined the foreign workers in their plea for status and is rallying Filipinos from across the nation to support status for the foreign workers of the CNMI. Filipinos are making phone calls, writing letters and contacting members of the Congress. Attorney Rodel Rodis from US Pinoys for Ninoy-Mar wrote in part:
My Dear Friends,

I am writing to ask you to rally our community to the aid of our kababayans in Saipan and the rest of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Contact your congressional representatives to support the recommendations of the Secretary of Interior on the CNMI labor situation.

Let us express our solidarity with them in their time of need.
Human rights, immigration and faith-based organizations have also been contacted to lend support.

The Marianas Variety reports:
Among the local residents who joined the motorcade was Noel Reyes who is married to a Russian.

He said granting improved status to guest workers as recommended by the U.S. Department of the Interior will help the CNMI’s economy to recover.

He also believes that there is no need for the U.S. government to consult with the CNMI government.

“They are the ones that can give U.S. citizenship not the CNMI government,” he added.

Reyes said there were other local residents who supported the motorcade but they preferred to remain silent.
He said his fellow locals should “wake up.”

He added, “The guest workers are part of the community, they are our friends, our spouses and neighbors.”
The Saipan Tribune reported:
Despite the scorching heat, hundreds of vehicles and thousands of nonresident workers, their families, and supporters joined yesterday's motorcade and peaceful assembly to show strong support to the U.S. Department of the Interior's recommendation for improved immigration status for legal alien workers who have been residing in the CNMI for at least five years.

Most of the banners and streamers at the motorcade and assembly carried the word “Yes” or the phrase “Yes to Interior recommendations.” Chants of “yes to improved status” also filled the air.

...The spectacle started long before the first vehicle left the Kilili Beach Park, as workers, their children and supporters in a festive mood greeted one another. Most of them wore white shirts, while some also wore yellow arm bands and head bands with the word “yes.”

Some of the vehicles carried banners and streamers, as well as yellow, white or blue balloons.

Motorists who didn't make it to the motorcade honked their horns to show solidarity.

Noel Reyes, a local resident from Susupe, said he joined the assembly to show support to nonresident workers and their families.

He said while his fellow residents may have opposite views on the issue of alien worker status, he would stand up for what he believes is right.

“If you believe in something, you have to stand for it. If it doesn't work, at least you tried. I hope we all think about the effects of a total removal of alien workers in the CNMI. And this is not only about jobs. This is about opportunities. This is the U.S.A.,” he added.
More Voices from the Rally

Tina Sablan:
Sablan, in her prepared message, said “We are closer than ever to our goal,” referring to the collective efforts to realize immigration reform and improved status for the CNMI's alien workers.

“Our task now, as I see it, is two-fold. First, we must appeal to Congress to act quickly and favorably on the Interior secretary's recommendations by passing legislation to grant long-term status, including a pathway to citizenship, to the CNMI's legal alien workers. .Second, we must reach out to everyone here at home-those who understand and support our efforts, and those who may be fearful or insecure,” Sablan's message partly reads.
Dr. Gene Sylvester Eagle-Oden:
“What you're asking for [improved status] is a right.”
Attroney Steve Woodruff
Woodruff, in his remarks, said for 30 years, the CNMI has operated under a system that divided foreign workers from local workers-to the detriment of all workers.

“It is a system that devalued our Chamorro and Carolinian brothers and sisters, at the same time that it claimed to protect them. We have begun the transition away from that system. Now is the time to complete that process,” Woodruff told the big crowd gathered at the American Memorial Park amphitheater.

Woodruff, who has long been a supporter of worker's rights, also said “now is the time to liberate the people of the CNMI from the failed policies and prejudices of the past” and to emancipate the CNMI economy.

“And the way to do that is by unifying and integrating our community. The way we do that is with a resounding 'yes' to improved status for long-term alien residents in the CNMI. So let 'yes' be heard from every island and every street and every village from the CNMI to the nation's capital in Washington, D.C.,” Woodruff added.
Joanne Orosco:
“I'm here to support my parents,” said Joanne Orosco, a 10-year-old U.S. citizen who is among the thousands of children who fear having to choose between staying on Saipan where they were born or go with their nonresident worker parents who may be forced to leave the islands once they lose status to remain in the CNMI after 2014 or earlier.

Her mother, Nenita Orosco, 45, has been a contract worker on Saipan for 17 years, first as a garment sewer then as a food catering employee earning a minimum wage of $4.55 an hour.
Rene Reyes:
“This is it. We are thankful for the high turnout,” said Rene Reyes, president of the Marianas Advocates for Humanitarian Affairs Ltd. or MAHAL and one of the organizers of the motorcade and assembly.
Zenny Cuerdo
Zenny Cuerdo, who has been a contract worker on Saipan for 18 years, said she joined the unity march in 2007.

“Now that the Interior has already come up with recommendations, workers are showing their support to these recommendations. And that's why we're here,” Cuerdo said shortly before the start of the motorcade.
Yang Jun:
Yang Jun, publisher of the Chinese newspaper Pacific Weekly, said it's time that workers show support to the Interior report and recommendation. He has been on Saipan for 14 years.
In a letter to the editor, social worker Lauri Ogumoro stated:
I think a quote from the late Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone can best summarize my feelings about the uproar over the U.S. Department of Interior’s report on the alien worker population in the CNMI and their recommendations to the U.S. Congress. The late senator said, “We all do better when we all do better.”

I challenge you to take a moment to ponder this profound statement, reach into your soul and think about it. Then tell me how the lowly construction worker, taxi cab driver, hair dresser, accountant, garment factory worker, or even the live-in maid has not in his or her own way contributed to this community.
Read more about the motorcade and rally:
Workers to Congress: Act Now by Haidee V. Eugenio
Hundreds Join 'unity' motorcade by Junhan Todeno
Doromal says improved immigration status for workers shouldn't be delayed by Gemma Q. Casas
Letter to Editor by Carlito Marquez


Anonymous said...

They could hear us in Washington DC!!!

Anonymous said...

Let's take the spirit of today and make it grow. UNITY! BIBA!!!!!

Anonymous said...

CONGRATULATIONS ON THE LARGEST GATHERING IN THE CNMI! We will stand together to get rights on U.S. soil!!! Thank you to all the U.S. citizens and locals who support us.

Don said...

Thank you Wendy for your constant support to the plight of the foreign workers. Kudos to the organizers of the motorcade it was very peaceful and a success!

Anonymous said...

A HUGE SUCCESS for everyone. Not just us workers but everyone on the island that we help by working here and providing our services. a success for our home, the CNMI!

Anonymous said...

Thought you might like this for your next motorcade...

----- THIS IS FICTION ONLY!!! -----
I was stuck in a traffic jam on Beach Road last week. Nothing moved for half an hour when suddenly a man knocked on my window.
So I rolled down my window and asked, "What's going on?"

'Foreign Workers down the road have kidnapped a few politicians including our Governor.
They're asking for a ransom or they're going to douse them with petrol and set them on fire.
We are going from car to car, taking up a collection.'

I innocently asked, "How much is everyone giving on average?"

"Most people are giving about a gallon"


Good work and well done with the Motorcade!!!

Anonymous said...

That's funny! Thanks for the laugh!

Captain said...

It is so sad that many of us "locals" cannot come together to do something about getting rid of the the recycled elected trash we have that is bringing the CNMI down.
Every election the same "good ole boys" are reelected.
Fitial and his "puppets" bought the election the second time.
Now many are saying that they won't get burned "twice". Next will be the Third time burned..

When is there going to be enough "local" people to be able to get together like these "worker" rallies and "demonstrate" against the present administration.
I have/had apprehensions about this kind of peaceful demonstrations.(lucky there was enough people so no conflicts accured)
The fall out from this has not come down yet. (I hope it will not)
But with this Fitial Admin, and all of his convicted felons and the rest of the brain washed, "bought" felons and uneducated employees, they will go to any extreme to have their way and to hold on to "power". "FEAR" is running these elected now.
GOOD !!!
Lets see, this was a good show, lets see what the private sector has to say.
Maybe all will be silent, (maybe not)

Anonymous said...

Here is my idea. "A Day Without Our Brothers and Sisters". For one day, or two, or three, every single "nr" worker should not go into work, or purchase anything. This will give our "private sector" some encouragement, and everyone else some idea of what it will really be like without these brothers and sisters. This will motivate real quick.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:40AM
We are ready for that!!!

ONE DAY OF SHOWING OUR STRENGTH, just one day for all of us to realize and be appreciated. JUST ONE DAY!!

Anonymous said...

Philippine Independence Day is coming up soon. Why not make it an unofficial local holiday?!

Anonymous said...

From the First Comment:
"They could hear us in Washington DC!!!"
Maybe, but I can assure you the local people heard you. The illegal residents in the States do this also, though not in as great a number. I know, workers here are here legally, but both groups are trying to get basically the same thing. In the States, Amnesty and a path to Citizenship, here Green Cards and path to Citizenship.
Although I don't disagree with the idea of the motorcade, you also did a good job of "scaring the locals" and that probably won't futhur your agenda.

Anonymous said...

"Philippine Independence Day is coming up soon. Why not make it an unofficial local holiday?"

Bad Idea. Your going for US GREEN CARDS, not showing how much you love the PI.
If you really want to fit in you don't rub the PI flag in the face of the locals.
Better Idea. If you are a contract worker and want a US Green Card, go out and buy a US Flag today, the biggest one you can afford, and start waving it at the 4th of July parade. This would be more in line with your goals.
Just trying to help out, although I think it was take many, many, years before anyting is determined.

Anonymous said...

9:40 yeah all the locals that participated were really scared too! BOO!

malou berueco said...

anon may 18, 10:46am---scared????...they have the guts to show their face and stand with their opinions!...you are the one scared-hiding from anon name!...BOO!

Anonymous said...

9:44 anon,

i think that's a good idea!

Anonymous said...

Malou, I believe 10:36 was being sarcastic. It's ridiculous to say that the locals were scared!

Captain said...

You guys had a good show up. In regards to you using the Phil. Independence day for a reason for all to take a day of to show how much the NMI needs you guys, BAD Idea..
I agree that you guys should take a hint from another commenter, and buy a US flag, as that seems to be your route your hopefully end results.(US citizenship)
Most of you know me, I support many of your goals, but you had better slow down a little and do not start to let things go to your heads.(like the current admin.)
A friendly warning, DO NOT START TO ALIENATE YOURSELVES from the community.
You all have a major support from the community, despite what a few say.
Be careful, and stay "cool". Do not think you have won the battle yet.
I do not trust Sayad, he is on his own personal agenda at many of your expense.
Again, settle down and take it day by day.
But if you guys was to have a "sick out" that may get the message across for some of the "bigoted ones".
"Peace and be careful"

Anonymous said...

captain, i'd been following all your comments (variety, unheardnomore) and so far your contributions and smart opinions are worth reading for. thanks for the sensible advise, i agree, be cool. planning the next move should not be in this blog, as the saying goes, "forewarned is forearmed". anyways, most of us know each other, just a text away!

also, i'm missing melberlin! where are you? i have not heard from you for quite awhile. off island?

Anonymous said...

The only thing that could have made the motorcade better would have been if the end destination was the airport and everyone had a one way ticket.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:50 AM;

LOL! who's going to buy the tickets your uncle Bennie??

Anonymous said...

Ah anonymous 8:50am, but then if this would have happened before, you wouldn't have met your wife, or had a son. Or is it just that you are still haunted by the nightmares of your former employees who filed labor cases against you?

-the watcher sees all

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Since November 28, 2009 that's been Uncle Sam's job to buy the tickets home. The USDOJ Executive Office for Immigration Review moves slowly but surely. And DHS ICE Detention and Removal Operations executes EOIR orders unfailingly.

Those who don't want to have a “removal” on their record when applying for a visa in ten years would be well advised to accomplish their own “voluntary departure.”