CNMI Senate Hearing on DOI Report

July 1, 2010

While President Obama attacked the Arizona law and reminded the American people that we need one uniform immigration policy for our country, people attending the CNMI Senate hearings on the DOI Report were calling for a "special immigration status" for the CNMI. One of the primary reasons for the CNRA was to finally bring the CNMI into conformity with U.S. immigration laws.

One person supporting a "special status for the CNMI" was the former Fitial lobbyist and former Saipan Chamber of Commerce President Jim Arenovski.  Like some other business owners, I imagine he would like to maintain the status quo or as close to it as he can to continue to reap ultimate profits at the expense of  the poorly paid and disenfranchised foreign workers.

Those who claim, "We can make our own status" like Senator Ralph DLG Torres, R-Saipan, don't seem to understand federal law or the concept behind one comprehensive immigration law that applies to all localities on U.S. soil. Why would the U.S. Congress that saw the urgent need for reform and a federal takeover in the CNMI, even consider granting a status that would continue to allow for abuse and disenfranchisement of the foreign workers? They won't.

There were some unrealistic proposals coming from elected officials and some community members. The director of the Indigenous Affairs Office, Ignacio Demapan, said he is for status quo. That is not a choice. The possibility of continuing the status quo ended when the CNRA was enacted, and for excellent reasons.

Demapan said, "I am declaring the position of the indigenous Chamorros and Carolinians, with the exception of those who are against us, that we do not support any of the five [Interior] recommendations. Our position is status quo." Bet those who didn't support his position weren't too happy with that statement.

A couple others also voiced support for the "status quo" which is one step beneath slavery. Status quo means keeping the foreign workers on a tight leash like they were under the broken CNMI immigration and labor systems so that they can be controlled, silenced, cheated, oppressed and sucked dry from fees for CNMI permits. The U.S. Congress will not allow that to happen.

Acting Covenant Speaker Felicidad Ogumoro (Speaker Frolain Tenorio has been off-island for an extended period of time) supports a referendum. She said she wants to see “that control of the destiny of the CNMI continues to be in the hands of indigenous Chamorros and Carolinians.” Again, there is no local control when considering granting status. No state or territory can decide who gets U.S. citizenship, only the U.S. Congress can.

One resident said if "they" (the foreigners) want 20,000 green cards, there are not 20,000 jobs. Green cards are not granted based on job availability! If foreigners are granted green cards, then those who cannot find jobs will be able to move to the mainland or Guam to find jobs.  They would not be chained to the CNMI.  This comment suggests that the foreign workers somehow belong to the CNMI to control.  They do not.

FAS-type status, which is pushed by some CNMI leaders, would allow the foreign workers to remain as a disenfranchised underclass. Any such status that does not provide for full political and social rights should be rejected as un-American and un-Democratic.

Where do comments like those made by Herman Q. Deleon Guerrero that suggest that by giving foreign workers citizenship "the indigenous tradition will be diluted" come from? Aren't such comments really veiled racism or do they emerge from a kind of warped superior attitude? Perhaps they are based on some unfounded and hysterical fear.  How can someone dilute another person's traditions? If the traditions haven't been diluted over the last three decades, even when foreigners have outnumbered locals, how will they be diluted if foreigners are given social and political rights? Are they afraid that they will lose their political power?  Who is in power on Guam where indigenous people are in the minority?

The Saipan Tribune quoted Rep. Frederick Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) as saying, “I think our real enemy here, for the lack of a better term, is the federal government."  I hope that this representative reconsiders his comments and apologizes.  It is extremely inappropriate to continue to accept and request federal funds and at the same time call the federal government the "enemy".  Community member Edward Diaz disagreed and called the federal government, "our friend", adding that lawmakers should be diplomatic.

Another anti-federal sentiment came from Senate Floor Leader Pete Reyes who said that the DOI "has no respect to the Commonwealth, the governor, and leaders of the Commonwealth." Whenever the federal government isn't doing exactly what some CNMI officials want them to, then it is labeled as "disrespectful." This childish attitude has been repeated for decades by numerous elected officials from the governor to individual lawmakers to the legislative body as a whole.

Former Represntative Tina Sablan appeared to be the most knowledgeable of federal law and most realistic at the hearing.  She was quoted by the Saipan Tribune:
Former Rep. Tina Sablan, in her testimony, asked, “What is it that some of us are so afraid of?”

Sablan was referring to some indigenous people's reasons for opposing the Interior recommendation, especially the apparent fear that someday these non-indigenous will also have an opportunity to vote or participate in other political processes.

“Is that really something that threatens our indigenous cultures? If so, how? Explain that to me. I am a person of Northern Marianas descent, I don't understand that. I grew up with children of guest workers and guest workers-they're my teachers, friends, classmates, co-workers, and I'm not afraid of that,” she told lawmakers and other community members.

Sablan said it is not right that members of the CNMI community for over five to 20 years have never been allowed to participate in the political process, adding that this goes against the expectations for the CNMI as a member of the U.S. family.

“I think it's important to emphasize that in the Covenant, we agreed that federal immigration law could be applied at anytime, by the act of U.S. Congress. We also recognize the right of U.S. Congress to grant U.S. citizenship. Even though we're having these hearings and we're discussing this issue, at the end of the day, it is a national decision that has to be made, and it is not up to anyone of us in the CNMI and even in any other state to decide on its own the future U.S. status of [other foreigners],” she added.

Sablan added that the Covenant and the Constitution do not provide for “guaranteed right, indigenous-only or NMD-only government.”
Two foreign worker leaders, Rabby Syed and Boni Sagana, who attended the hearing also supported improved status as recommended by the DOI report.

I urge the foreign workers to show up at every hearing and make their voices heard.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wendy said:

"Why would the U.S. Congress that saw the urgent need for reform and a federal takeover in the CNMI, even consider granting a status that would continue to allow for abuse and disenfranchisement of the foreign workers?"

The U.S. Congress saw an urgent need to secure the borders of the CNMI. Security was the reason. There was no mention of any alleged abuses, etc.

"Two foreign worker leaders, Rabby Syed and Boni Sagana, who attended the hearing also supported improved status as recommended by the DOI report."

Is Rabby Syed, a foreign national, swaying Congress? Who are these people? What do the Americans think? This trumps Rabby Syed and any other foreigners.

"Sablan was referring to some indigenous people's reasons for opposing the Interior recommendation, especially the apparent fear that someday these non-indigenous will also have an opportunity to vote or participate in other political processes."

Not just some indigenous, but most of us want to keep what culture we have left intact.

There will be no immediate Green Cards to anyone. The process will be a long one, possibly not until after 2014 at the soonest. By then, a great many contract workers will have left to go back to THEIR countries. Remember these are foreign nationals.

The PI, China, Bangladesh and Russia need to clean up their corrupt system of exporting labor.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 7:21

The CNRA addresses several issues, not JUST security. Read the complete Senate Report on the bill, which states:
"The purpose of H.R. 3079 is to extend U.S. immigration laws to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) as provided by Section 503 of the Covenant…”

It continues with reasons the bill had to be implemented: “1. First among these concerns has been the development of an unsustainable, two-tiered economy that is not creating private sector opportunities for local residents; 2. Second, has been the growing concern about ineffective immigration/border control and its consequences. 3. Third, there has been a persistent pattern of exploitation and mistreatment of aliens. 4. Fourth, the huge population growth resulting from local policies and practices has overwhelmed the infrastructure and contributed to significant socio-economic impacts.”

It continues: “Elements of the CNMI's immigration policy are also simply inconsistent with Federal policies. Among these is the Federal policy that persons admitted into the U.S. to fill permanent jobs do so as immigrants with the ability to become U.S. citizens and full participants in the political process. Also, the lack of Federal immigration jurisdiction in the CNMI has hindered enforcement of Federal requirements under international agreements such as the treatment of persons seeking asylum or protection from torture. At the February 8, 2007 hearing, the Committee heard of the Administration's serious concerns regarding the CNMI's performance in meeting these international obligations.”

Continued…

Wendy said...

Anonymous 7:31

You said: "Is Rabby Syed, a foreign national, swaying Congress? Who are these people? What do the Americans think? This trumps Rabby Syed and any other foreigners."

Yes, the US Congress listens to ALL PEOPLE who live and work on US soil. Yes, they acknowledged the petitions with over 7,000 signatures that requested green cards and a pathway to citizenship. Yes, they respond to their letters and concerns. And yes, they acknowledge the concerns of the nonresidents as have been expressed by my reports, testimony, personal meetings and correspondence for over two decades.

You said, "Sablan was referring to some indigenous people's reasons for opposing the Interior recommendation, especially the apparent fear that someday these non-indigenous will also have an opportunity to vote or participate in other political processes."

Not just some indigenous, but most of us want to keep what culture we have left intact."

What does the US Congress deciding that it will grant status to deserving people have anything to do with your culture? Are you serious? You have an Indigenous Affairs Office and a Carolinian Affairs Office. Are they being paid to protect and promote the culture? No one can steal someone's culture.

You said, "There will be no immediate Green Cards to anyone. The process will be a long one, possibly not until after 2014 at the soonest. By then, a great many contract workers will have left to go back to THEIR countries. Remember these are foreign nationals.

The PI, China, Bangladesh and Russia need to clean up their corrupt system of exporting labor."

You do not know when the US Congress will move on this issue. I am working on getting those in power to understand the urgency of moving quickly to protect families and take the immediate, right and moral action for the legal foreign workers who have lived and worked in the CNMI for 5 or more years.

The actions of exporting governments have nothing to do with the fact that the CNMI recruited these workers to fill jobs that the CNMI government claimed it does not have the local workforce to fill.

Anonymous said...

From Saipan Tribune:
Rep. Frederick Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) said the CNMI need not accept or choose any of the five recommendations.

“I think our real enemy here, for the lack of a better term, is the federal government,” he said.

Well, there it is. In case anyone was insure of who our local leaders, not the general population, feel about the Federal Government.
It is not just a about this issue, although this is perhaps the most volatile, but the way they see anything that would take away their power to corrupt, er, govern.
Unfortunately, many of the local people will actually listen to this garbage and believe it.
Tina Sablan, while I don't believe in everything she does, is spot in this regard.
DeLeon Guerrero is a clown. He should be ashamed of himself. Of course, he will have enough people (Greg Cruz and his TaoTao Tano sheep) praising his words.
I was kinda on the fence about this issue before, but now I say give them all instant citizenship and call and immediate election and get these American Loathing Bums out of office.

Anonymous said...

Noni 8:34

I agree. The statements by these "lawmakers" are revolting and extreme. Yes, give them all citizenship now! Can the president issue an executive order and be done with this?

Anonymous said...

8:40 YES HE CAN!

Anonymous said...

Just like Arizona, the CNMI can also disagree with the federal government. For guest workers, do they think that the reforms being suggested by Interior for these workers will be passed given the national attention? Unlikely. Homeland Security does not agree with the unobstructed path to citizenship. It is interested in removing those without status after 2014 and is waiting for the economic pond to dry up and force out the rest of the nonresident workers, being deportation by economic hardship. They won't admit it... but that is what they are doing.

Anonymous said...

Aon 8:52
The part about "deportation by economic hardship" is interesting.
With Guam being turned into a stationary aircraft carrier, I think the military would like a nice, pretty empty island that they can call the shots on. If the population is down to say, 20K people, all they will have ot do is waive some shiny trinkets in front of the people and get anything they want. Granting green cards would hasten this along.

Anonymous said...

The President of the United States has no unilateral power to grant Lawful Permanent Residence or Citizenship through proclamation, executive order, or otherwise.

Under the U.S. Constitution, his sole power in this regard is to sign into law a public or private law duly passed by Congress.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:52. I like the description of Guam as a Stationary Aircraft Carrier. As amusing as the Congressman's concern that the island would tip over with all those Marines! Anything can happen and anyone can be persuaded with some dinero huh? $500 million for Farallon for practice and we'll call it even? $1 billion for Pagan?... green cards for the people in the CNMI. Name a price for BenTan and he'll salivate.

Anonymous said...

what?!the feds are their enemy!??how can they say that?what a shame!!without the feds how they will survive!!?foreiners came here to work coz they know its a US territory!!if only you guys nobody will come here to work or to wish to stay!!it is b'coz its US!!thats why CW are here!!we love america!!not chamoro or carolinian!!we love to serve the US...GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!

Anonymous said...

The issue for Arizona is about non-enforcement of the immigration laws and providing resources for border security. That is far different from the CNMI in which the Federal government exercised border control with immigration reform, but to which the CNMI objects as to any immigration benefits for guest workers. That is the heart of the debate. This blog advocates for the pathway. Opponents challenge that. The disagreements are clear and disagreeable.

The guest workers and this blog should advocate for a referendum to let the people decide. The results may be interesting. Either way it will provide to Congress the direct response to the question from the people. And we won't need BenTan's filter and talking heads or talking butts in the process!

Wendy said...

Anonymous 11:37

Thanks for the advice, but I am certainly very clear about what issues I want to advocate for on my blog or elsewhere, and I do not seek, nor do I desire your advice.

I have absolutely no intention of advocating for a referendum when about half of the adult population of the CNMI could not participate in it because they are DISENFRANCHISED! I consider nonresidents PEOPLE and in a referendum not all of the PEOPLE could vote!

Anonymous said...

i will not say i don't love chamorro or carolinian. let us be careful in what we say, we might offend those chamorros who loves us. i love tina sablan, i love mam lupe, i love glenn, i love my chamorro friends.

from what i understand, you don't love those who hates us.

please don't be offended by this, peace!

Anonymous said...

Noni 1:04 Who are you addressing your comment to?

Wendy said...

Anonymous 6:34

I am pretty sure that anonymous 1:04 is talking to anonymous 1:36 AM who I would guess is not expressing the sentiment of most nonresidents.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 6:34

I am pretty sure that anonymous 1:04 is talking to anonymous 1:36 AM who I would guess is not expressing the sentiment of most nonresidents.

Anonymous said...

anon 6:34 a.m,

that reply is for anon july 4 1:36 a.m. thanks mam wendy.

Anonymous said...

So if there is a referendum or initiative in the United States on immigration amnesty you want 12 million undocumented non-citizens to vote on the issue? Would that not disenfranchise the citizens? Why is it so wrong to limit voting to citizens or is it only on issues relating to non-citizen guest workers that it matters?

You don't TRUST the citizens of the Commonwealth and you think ou can be fair? Advocate. Fine. But what if the silent majority of citizens and residents WANT citizenship for the guest workers notwithstanding the idiotic position of the so-called leaders including BenTan? And what if the vote showed that? Has anyone even done a credible survey. None. Only opinions which do not speak to the community's view.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 9:22

There would be NO referendum in the U.S. because people understand that Congress makes decisions regarding status and or citizenship of aliens. It is not a matter of trust, but a matter of democracy, the fact that a referendum is not necessary, and doubts if it would impact the decisions either way.

I do not remember being asked to vote on whether or not to accept the residents of the CNMI as US citizens, or being asked to vote on status for the thousands of aliens given amnesty under the Reagan Administration. Why? Because a referendum isn't a criteria in making decisions on this issue. The U.S. Congress decides.

The result of the referendum is not the issue. I was speaking about disenfranchisement. Would you like to name ONE state where there are approximately an equal number of adult residents and disenfranchised nonresidents? A state where the majority of the nonresidents have lived and worked there legally for five or more years, and many for ten or more years? A state with a ratio of so many nonresidents with US citizen children as the CNMi has?

I know of no survey, but we have petition signatures from residents and nonresidents totaling over 7,000 and hundreds of letters in support.

Do a survey if you wish!

And why are you afraid to identify yourself? Why anonymous? Do you lack conviction in your words?

Anonymous said...

"I do not remember being asked to vote on whether or not to accept the residents of the CNMI as US citizens, or being asked to vote on status for the thousands of aliens given amnesty under the Reagan Administration. "

Oh how I love this statement. Thank you Mam Wendy. These anti aliens should read this. They should count their blessing and be thankful that they don't have to go through what we been going through. Don't be selfish!

Wendy said...

Anonymous 5:27

You are welcome! It just makes sense.

Big news today too! President Obama just sued Arizona.