Status for Foreign Contract Workers

July 9, 2010

Once again the CNMI Legislature is working on a Resolution.  This time it is to request the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife "to reject the Department of Interior Report."

Under a provision in the CNRA, the Department of Interior was mandated to submit a report to Congress by May 10, 2010 with recommendations on the status of the CNMI  foreign workers.  They did that.  Why would a Congressional Committee "reject" it?

The Marianas Variety reports:
Senate Vice President Jude Hofschneider, R-Tinian and chairman of the committee, said their recommendation will be based on public opinions presented during the hearings.

The committee plans to submit its report to Senate President Paul A. Manglona, Ind.-Rota, sometime in August.

It will then be submitted to Congress which has yet to act on Interior’s recommendation.
The recommendations will be based on public opinion based on the hearings? The hearings have reportedly had an extremely low turnout with the last hearing having only about 20 people attending.  Opinion at the hearings has been divided with some wanting the foreign workers and other nonresidents to have green cards and a direct pathway to citizenship, others suggesting an FAS-type status, and some suggesting they should "maintain the status quo." (The last suggestion is not possible since status quo no longer is a possibility with the federal takeover of immigration and the foreign workforce and the end of the broken CNMI systems.)

The Saipan Tribune reported:
The draft resolution said that Interior made the recommendation without discussing, among other things, the social, economic, political and cultural impact of such a recommendation and without consulting the CNMI governor.

Deleon Guerrero, as chairman of the House Committee on Federal and Foreign Relations, has set a July 12 committee meeting to discuss his draft resolution.

The draft resolution reiterated many of the views of lawmakers when they adopted in May a joint resolution “strongly opposing” the Interior report.

But because it is only a draft at this time, the proposed resolution may still go through revisions during the committee meeting on Monday.
Would a resolution based on opinions expressed at the hearings that were attended by less than one percent of the population have any influence on the decisions made by the U.S. Congress? That's doubtful, especially if that actually based the resolution on opinions expressed at those hearings it would reflect the conflicting opinions stated at the hearings.

The largest and most significant response to the DOI Report from the CNMI to date has been the unity motorcade and rally held May 18, 2010 in support of the recommendations in the report and supporting a pathway to citizenship for foreign workers. That was attended by over 5,000 people, both foreigners and residents, and that sent a strong message to Washington, DC.

The Resolution reportedly also requests hearings on the issue. The Saipan Tribune reported:
The draft four-page resolution, authored by Rep. Frederick P. Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan), also requests Bordallo's subcommittee to conduct hearings in the CNMI on the Interior report.
Where were these people? There were several House hearings held since the passage of the CNRA. The DOI report was addressed at the hearings.  Governor Fitial testified at both.  Anyone had an opportunity to submit testimony. I submitted written testimony that addressed the issue of status to both hearings. Former Representative Tina Sablan submitted testimony for the May 2008 hearing, and I believe other members of the CNMI Legislature did also. For two years everyone knew that the report was to be issued. So now after the report is issued they want hearing?!

Will the proposed resolution be yet another lie? From a previous post, The Lie:
It ridiculous that the governor and others are claiming that they were never consulted concerning the report. First, the DOI was charged to write the report, not the CNMI government. It was never intended to be a joint recommendation.

Secondly, there were numerous hearings, meetings, testimony, correspondence and other opportunities to express opinions on status for long-term workers. The following is a list of only some of the meetings that U.S. officials held with the governor, key CNMI officials or his "lobbyists-spokespersons" (emphasis added):
  • January 2009: Fitial announced that Lynn Knight would take a six month leave to represent the Office of the Governor in Washington on federalization issues:

    In a letter written by Fitial appointing Knight, the governor said she would work in cooperation with Howard Willens, the governor's special legal counsel. Fitial has instructed her to keep CNMI Rep. Gregorio “Kilili” Sablan and the CNMI Legislature's Federalization Task Force up to date on the issues.

    The new position will take effect Feb. 1. Knight, who will make a trip to the CNMI in April for an economic summit, said she will soon create a Web site where the public can access information and documents on the issues and work she does.
  • May 2009: Fitial testified at the House Hearing in Washington, DC. Part of his testimony addressed the question of status for long-term foreign workers and the DOI report!
  • August 2009: Visit to Saipan by Congressman Nick Rahall III (D-VA), Chair of the House Resources Committee, Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU), Rep. Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands),Rep. Henry Brown (R-SC), and American Samoa Rep. Eni Faleomavaega. From the Saipan Tribune:

    U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Chair Rep. Nick Rahall II (D-WV) and the rest of the congressional delegation left Saipan yesterday with an assurance that the concerns raised by CNMI leaders and community members on federalization “will be taken into consideration,” including those of the visa waiver program and immigration status for foreign workers.
  • August 2009 Allan Stayman,Isaac Edwards, staffers from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and two U.S. Department of the Interior legislative liaison met with Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, Lt. Gov. Eloy S. Inos and Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan. They also met with the Saipan Chamber of Commerce. The Tribune reported:

    Press secretary Charles Reyes said Fitial welcomes all federal policy makers and their staff to the CNMI and appreciates the opportunity to provide important feedback regarding the Commonwealth's current situation, real needs, and the impact that federal policies have on the islands.

    “The essential message the governor has always conveyed to federal policy makers and their staff is this: The CNMI is facing unprecedented economic challenges and we need the federal government's financial and regulatory support to help our islands survive and recover from this major financial downturn,” Reyes said.
  • January 2010 U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs, Tony Babauta, Office of Insular Affairs Director Nik Pula, and Congressman Gregorio Sablan met with Governor Fitial. Guest workers asked for a meeting with Mr. Babauta to urge that he recommend green cards. From the Saipan Tribune:

    “I hope to be a part of that and I hope to have a very good working relationship with the governor. We may not always agree on certain issues and how matters will be resolved but I think between the two of us, we agree we can always talk to each other and try to find some middle ground on how to move forward,” Babauta said.

    Fitial said he believes in communication. “And effective communication involves emphatic listening. So I will be very emphatic when I listen to you talk,” he added.
    Apparently the governor failed to communicate.

    Saipan Tribune reported in January 2010: "Babauta said the Ombudsman's Office's numbers will be used in the Interior's report to the U.S. Congress." I guess all of the CNMI officials missed that issue of the Saipan Tribune. Mr. Babauta also meet with Senator Paul Manglona on Rota during his January 2010 visit to the CNMI. So why didn't he discuss his feelings on the pending DOI Report during this opportune time? Senator Manglona (R-Rota) supported Resolution 17-4 and will be testifying at the hearing on Tuesday. Manglona was quoted by the Saipan Tribune as supporting the lie:
Senate President Paul A. Manglona (R-Rota) said the Senate joins the House in asking Congress to “direct” the Interior to “consult” with Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, as mandated by Public Law 110-229 or the federalization law.

Manglona, who is a member of Fitial's working group on the Interior report, said the Senate also joins the House in asking Congress to “direct” the Interior to “collaborate” with the CNMI governor “in preparing and submitting to Congress a report that includes the Commonwealth government's position and recommendations as to the future status of the alien worker population” in the CNMI
  • February 2010 Governor Fitial was in Washington, DC for the Governor's Connference and for meetings with officials. He reported that he met with Vice-President Biden and others. He also met with people from the DOI! From the Tribune:

    Fitial, along with Commerce Secretary Michael Ada, attended the NGA meeting events and met with various federal agencies, including the US Department of Labor, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of Insular Affairs.
  • March 2010 Assistant Department of Interior Secretary Tony Babauta visited Saipan again. That time there were headlines in the media about the DOI report that Fitial claimed he had no input on. From the Saipan Tribune:

    Assistant Interior Secretary for Insular Affairs Tony Babauta said yesterday that the Office of Insular Affairs is nearing completion of its report to the U.S. Congress about the immigration status of foreign workers in the CNMI, as the May 10, 2010 deadline draws nears.

    “We have consulted with the governor and the Department of Homeland Security on our report. Having accomplished that, our report now is being reviewed by the administration,” Babauta told Saipan Tribune in an interview at the Saipan Southern High School in Koblerville yesterday morning.

    Babauta could not say at this time what status OIA is recommending to the U.S. Congress.

    “It would be too early for me to say what the recommendations will be without having it cleared by the administration,” he added.

    This was discussed during Babauta's meeting with Gov. Benigno R. Fitial on Capital Hill yesterday.

    “I informed the governor that we're very near to completing our report, in submitting recommendations to Congress. .Right now, it's going through the process in.the administration side. Once that process is completed, then we will send it to Congress,” said Babauta.

    ...Babauta said he has consulted with Fitial on some of the aspects of the report and is aware of some of Fitial's public statements on the issue. He said he has also listened to guest workers, the business community and other sectors of the community.
    Nonresident worker groups and their supporters have been asking for lawful permanent resident status or “green cards” for long-time foreign workers and others with relatives who are U.S. or Freely Associated States citizens in the CNMI.
    In December, Fitial and Lt. Gov. Eloy S. Inos said in a news briefing that the Fitial administration won't oppose the federal government if it decided to grant “green cards” to nonresident workers in the CNMI.
    Fitial reiterated, though, that CNMI Public Law 3-66, which he authored when he was a member of the 3rd Legislature, allows foreign workers to come here as a “privilege” only-if and when resident workers are not available.
    “There's nothing in that law that would even suggest that nonresident workers should be granted preferred immigration status,” the governor had said.
    But Babauta said yesterday: “I think the governor has made a couple of recommendations, not knowing what the recommendations of the Department of the Interior will be.”
It is a lie that the federal government did not consult the CNMI and that the governor and members of the CNMI Legislature did not have numerous opportunities to express their views on this matter. The deadline for the DOI report was stated in the law and the governor, members of the Legislature, and any interested party knew the deadline. There were 732 days for the administration to address the issue of the report, express their views and suggest recommendations. There were numerous face-to-face opportunities for CNMI officials to discuss this issue. Additionally, every person with an opinion had the opportunity to create their own report, testimony, or correspondence.

The foreign workers and advocates circulated petitions, sponsored letter writing campaigns, conducted outreach in Washington through my trips to meet with officials, and outreach in the CNMI through the Codel and Mr. Babauta's visits. Our position was and is clear. We started working on our campaign for status the day after the bill was signed. Two years is a long time. Stop the lie!

Governor Fitial and his Covenant followers have sent many messages to the DOI. Take the anti-federalization lawsuit for instance. That sent a very strong message. Governor Fitial's anti-federal lawsuit claimed that the federalization must be stopped because the foreign workers would be removed by 2014. In the briefs and declarations submitted to the federal court the claim is made that the workers must stay. What better way to ensure their stay than to grant status? The lawsuit even stresses the damage that removing the workers would do to the workers' families. From the brief:
71. P.L. 110-229 will strike a devastating, and perhaps fatal, blow upon on the Commonwealth's economy by prohibiting the CNMI from ensuring an adequate supply of labor for local residents and businesses. P.L. 110-229 imposes an uncertain permitting system for an indefinite period of time on approximately two thirds of the Commonwealth's private-sector workforce and requires that the number of Commonwealth-only permits be reduced to zero by the end of 2014, the current end date for the transition period. As the number of Commonwealth-only permits is reduced, foreign workers lawfully admitted under CNMI law will have to leave the Commonwealth if they are unable to obtain a visa under the narrow and specialized classifications of the federal immigration laws or if their employers cannot obtain the necessary permits from that steadily shrinking pool of permits.
Most of the CNMI's foreign workers will not be able to qualify for federal visas, because existing federal immigration laws do not allow for visas for low-skill jobs that are "permanent" rather than "temporary." In addition, because no "Commonwealth-only" permits can be issued or can authorize employment after 2014, whatever relief is potentially available during the transition period is necessarily temporary.
72. The local citizen workforce is not large enough to compensate for the labor deficit P.L. 110-229 will create. The overall U.S. citizen population of about 30,000 and the U.S. citizen workforce of about 11,000 have remained constant in size for most of the past decade. There is no reasonable basis for assuming that the U.S. citizen population can produce a workforce of sufficient size to meet the needs of the CNMI economy. The substantial decline in the number of taxpaying FAS citizens in recent years - from 1,699 in 2002 to 713 in 2007 - indicates that few additional workers can come from this source. Indeed, P.L. 110-229 is likely to accelerate the out-migration of citizens to other locations in the United States with more promising economies. As a result of P.L. 110-229, the population of the Commonwealth could fall below 35,000 residents.
73. P.L. 1 10-229 has placed the Commonwealth in a legal and economic limbo of indefinite duration. Such an environment is toxic to economic development. Business plans for new ventures already are being revised or cancelled in view of P.L. 110-229. Foreign investment is being withdrawn because the necessary workforce will not be available to construct or operate new facilities. Employers are reconsidering plans for new businesses and for expansion of existing businesses in light of the uncertain restrictions upon the available supply of labor.
74. The reduction in business planning and activity caused by P.L. 110-229 will reduce the revenues available to the Commonwealth to provide needed public services to its residents. The decline in the quality of public services will injure the people of the Commonwealth and encourage citizens to leave the Commonwealth.
75. P.L. 110-229 places the Commonwealth in a position of economic peril that has no parallel elsewhere in the United States. No other city, county, or state in America has a federal bureaucracy exercising plenary authority over two-thirds of its private-sector labor force. No other city, county, or state in America has been singled out by a federal enactment for economic devastation in the manner in which the Commonwealth has been singled out by P.L. 110-229. In no other city, county, or state in America has federal power ousted local authority to such an enormous extent.
76. P.L. 110-229 will not only severely damage the Commonwealth's economy, it will also rend its social fabric. The 24,000 foreign workers and their families in the Commonwealth make up roughly 40% of the Commonwealth's total population. Many of these people have lived in the Commonwealth for over a decade. Moreover, the families of foreign workers include thousands of U.S. citizen children. Under the provisions of P.L. 1 10-229, these children's parents are subject to expulsion from the Commonwealth over the next several years even if they otherwise could have remained gainfully employed in the Commonwealth. When required to leave, these parents will be forced either to separate from their children and find another home for them in the Commonwealth, or to take these U.S. citizen children away from their home country and the incalculable opportunities and benefits of growing up in the United States. In short, the societal, familial, and personal damage that will be caused by P.L. 110-229 is as severe as its economic impact.
By supporting status, the Fitial Administration would be guaranteed the skilled and much-needed workforce that it sued to maintain. The truth is that the Fitial Administration, legislators and other DOI Report protesters want the foreign workers only if they can remain  in the CNMI deprived of political and social rights and can stay under their thumb in a system that has perpetuated abuses and created a two-tiered, disenfranchised underclass.

Knowing the history of the United States and the principles for which it stands, all citizens of the commonwealth, and especially the lawmakers, should understand that the U.S. Congress cannot allow the disenfranchisement of an established underclass to continue under the federal system. It is un-American and un-democratic.

The Saipan Tribune reports that the lie was repeated by The CNMI Women's Organization in May 2010. They started a petition to oppose the Department of Interior's Report and apparently was spearheaded by Covenant Party member Rose Ada-Hocog. It reads:

To: U.S. Congress
We, the natives of the Northern Mariana Islands, are vehemently opposing the Secretary of Interior’s Report as prepared pursuant to U.S. Public Law 110-229 regarding the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) which was submitted to the U.S. Congress in April 2010. This report was prepared without any efforts to consult us or our government.
There is a mentality among some people in the CNMI that if an untruth is repeated enough times people will believe it. We've seen this pattern numerous times. People don't believe the lie, but those who want to keep their jobs or the status quo pretend that they do, and ride on. Those that know that is is a lie and have a moral compass will expose it for what it is and attempt to engage in real debates. In the long run people develop a deep distrust of those circulating the lies.
I hope that the CNMI Senate Hearings are being conducted so that there are formal minutes that note who attended and what was said. To base an anti-DOI Report  resolution on hearings with dismal attendance and conflicting opinion is not an honest portrayal of "public opinion."

Of course, every person is free to also address the subcommittee with their own resolution and letter.  I will resubmit the hundreds of letters from the foreign workers and their children with a cover letter too.  I also think we should remind the committee of the meeting dates with Fitial and the Senate President and the statement made publicly by Fitial where he said that he would support green cards for foreign workers if that was the DOI recommendation.

Remaining Senate Hearing dates 

Please check for locations. All hearings will be held from 6pm to 9pm. I urge all nonresidents to attend and make their voices heard!

July 14 - Tinian
July 21 - Rota
July 28 - Saipan
July 30 - Saipan.


Captain said...

Wendy you did a "superior" job on this article.
I hope many of the people complaining about the DOI report read this and note the times and dates.
(but doubt if most are literate)

Anonymous said...

Not so many people know these issues and concerns and not so many who knew remembered. Not so many can connect the dates and events. We just hope that these information will be published again and again in your blog and most especially in the CNMI local newspapers.

For the meantime, this blog is still very helpful. Thanks Wendy!

Anonymous said...

Updated Scheduled:

July 14 - Tinian Elementary

July 21 - GTC Elementary (Saipan)

July 28 - Rota

July 30 - Kagman Sommunity Center (Saipan)

6pm - 9pm at each location.

Anonymous said...

These clowns are the stupidiest of all! There are so many issues that needs urgent attentions instead wasting time in this one. UNBELEIVABLE!!

Only in CNMI........

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this info Mam Wendy. I wish you can post this in the news papers so that these people claiming that they were not "CONSULTED" can read this. Irritating is an understatement of how I feel whenever I read that these anti aliens claim that they were not consulted, what a lame excuse.