Please sign our petition to provide protection to the CNMI alien workers!


We, the undersigned petitioners, ask you to take administrative action to extend protections to the 16,000 legal aliens residing in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Until such time as a more permanent status is provided by the U.S. Congress, or by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of State, and U.S. Department of Labor, please grant these legal aliens parole-in-place status with authorization to seek employment, and provide that parole-in-place status shall qualify them for employment-based visa applications. Mr. President, each of these legal aliens is part of the U.S. Social Security system. Each understands U.S. industry standards. Each understands U.S. workplace safety standards. Each understands U.S. fair labor standards.

For more than twenty years and until the application of federal immigration law to the islands in November 2009, the CNMI was allowed to manage a guest worker program that permitted alien workers to renew their employment contracts and live in the CNMI year after year, but denied them any opportunity to adjust to permanent status. Over the years many legal aliens built quality lives in the islands, performing their jobs honorably and with distinction, contributing to the economy and community, and building homes and families. They established roots in the CNMI that grew deeper and stronger each year that their stay was extended, but their status as temporary guest workers remained the same.

The CNMI guest worker program effectively ended with the enactment of the Consolidated Natural Resources Act (CNRA) of 2008, U.S.P.L. 110-229, which applied federal immigration law to the CNMI. The fate of legal aliens still present in the CNMI remains unclear, however, and today they live in fear of removal from the CNMI because they lack a permanent U.S. status. Many have neither job prospects nor support systems in the countries they left so long ago. Their children, most of whom are American citizens, stay awake at night anxiously contemplating the fate of their parents and the future of their families. They worry about being exiled to foreign countries where they cannot speak the language and where they may face a poorer quality of life.

Mr. President, the legal aliens of the CNMI have a special and urgent situation. Under current U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policies, none of the CNMI's legal aliens qualifies for employment-based visas and the pathway to naturalization provided under such visas. Though DHS is mandated by the CNRA to create a transitional worker visa program for the CNMI, that worker visa program has not yet been established. It is unclear when DHS will finally begin to issue transitional worker visas, and in the meantime the absence of this program is creating severe stress for the CNMI's legal aliens and their families, as well as great uncertainty and instability for small businesses and investors.

Without the transitional worker visa program mandated by the CNRA, none of the CNMI's legal alien workers can begin the process for obtaining an employment-based visa. Moreover, the present employment-based H and L visas do not provide relief to the CNMI's legal alien workers because the jobs they occupy are not temporary as defined in the regulations for these visas. The EB visas, which provide for petitioning for permanent resident status and, eventually, naturalization, cannot be applied for without U.S. immigration status.

While we understand that permanent status and a pathway to citizenship for legal aliens in the CNMI may be included in future national comprehensive immigration reform legislation, we plead with you not to wait to grant relief. A U.S. Department of Homeland Security Memo to USCIS Director Alejandro N. Mayorkas has outlined administrative relief options that could be exercised in the absence of comprehensive immigration reform legislation in order to promote family unity, foster economic growth, and remove the threat of removal for certain individuals and groups present in the United States without authorization. According to the memo, "USCIS can extend benefits and/or protections to many individuals and groups by issuing new guidance and regulations, exercising discretion with regard to parole-in-place, deferred action and the issuance of Notices to Appear (NTA), and adopting significant process improvements."

We appeal to you, Mr. President, to recognize that the unique and urgent needs of the CNMI's legal, documented aliens need not, and should not, be delayed by ongoing partisan politics and a raging debate over undocumented workers in the United States. It is within your power now to provide protection to legal aliens who have dedicated their lives to building and developing this U.S. Commonwealth. Administrative actions to grant the CNMI's legal aliens parole-in-place status, employment authorization, and eligibility to apply for employment-based visas, would give peace of mind to 16,000 members of the CNMI community, keep families intact, and provide businesses and investors with the stable labor pool they need to help the CNMI economy recover.

Moreover, these administrative actions to extend protections to the CNMI's legal alien workers would provide a measure of justice for the thousands of people who have been cheated of their wages, victimized by illegal recruiters, scammers, and unscrupulous employers, and suffered a range of labor, civil, and human rights abuses in the CNMI. In 2008 the Office of the Federal Ombudsman in Saipan verified a total of $6.1 million in unpaid judgments that are still owed to thousands of alien workers. While the cheated workers will never receive their back wages or compensation for the abuses that they suffered while working on U.S. soil, you can alleviate their suffering now by exercising your administrative powers to protect them.

Mr. President, regarding comprehensive immigration reform you said, "Our task then is to make our national laws actually work - to shape a system that reflects our values as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. And that means being honest about the problem, and getting past the false debates that divide the country rather than bring it together."

Mr. President, please restore the American dream to the 16,000 legal aliens who have made this U.S. Commonwealth their home. Please take administrative action through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Labor and extend benefits and protections to these valuable, law-abiding, and contributing members of the CNMI community, until a more permanent status can be provided to them.

Thank you.

Respectfully submitted,

(Your name here)


Wendy said...

Thank you to my dear friend Dengre. He wrote a post about meeting Jack Abramoff at the pizzeria where he now works and invited the people of Balloon Juice and the DailyKos to sign this petition. I thank each of you for signing and for your beautiful messages of support for justice and human rights on behalf of the legalCNMI foreign workers.

Maribel said...

Everyone please email this to 5 friends in states and ask them to do the same! See you at the prayer vigil November 9 AMP

Anonymous said...

Dear Ma'am Wendy,

I am very thankful for all the help you did to us, I appreciate it very much. However, today is a sad day again to us because the governor gave us the directive not to work today because it's holiday and not paid holiday and even we want to work, he declares not paid holiday. He was the one who make our work schedule.He is now a great dictator in this island.The governor will be the one to tell us what to do and when to do.Our housing allowance is given not given yet for october and now november.

Once again thank you very much, I hope the President will give attention to this petition as possible.