CNMI Legislature Offers No Seat at the Table

February 10, 2011

I, Too, Sing America
by Langston Hughes

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

Everyone who has visited Unheard No More! knows that I believe that all law-abiding long-term nonresident workers who have lived and worked for five or more years in the CNMI or anywhere on U.S. soil should be eligible to apply for a green card with an unobstructed pathway to U.S. citizenship. (So do over 7,000 CNMI residents and nonresidents who signed a 2009 petition.)

I consider any lesser status as an unacceptable alternative. In fact, I find FAS status, which is the legally recognized disenfranchisement of a segment of society, an extremely offensive, un-American and undemocratic proposal for long-term foreign workers. I have been called stubborn, self-righteous, and uncompromising, but my position will not change. No contributing community member should be disenfranchised.

There are basic American principles that should not be altered, and one is that all people who come to our shores should be regarded as future citizens, not as replaceable commodities or as second-class citizens. I believe that it is un-American to recruit people to provide needed services of labor in your community, to tax them, renew them repeatedly for years and even decades, and then to tell them they will never be offered a pathway to citizenship with full rights and privileges.

The constitution states, “We the people" -- not “We the citizens” or “We the native born.” The basic constitutional protections of due process and equal protection provided in the Constitution and Bill of Rights apply to every person, and not just to citizens.

KSPN2 and the Saipan Tribune report that after a three-hour, closed door session some Senate and House committee members “came to a consensus on the status of foreign workers in the Commonwealth.” Their new draft contains these words:
“All nonresident workers residing in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands for ten years on the date U.S. Public Law 110-229 became law, shall receive the same immigration status held by citizens of the freely associated states (FAS), but only after remaining in the Commonwealth for five years after the date U.S. Public Law 110-229 became law.
It is not likely that the CNMI Legislature’s opinion will hold a significant amount of weight with members of the U.S. Congress who will make a decision concerning status for the long-term CNMI foreign workers.  (When and if  they ever get their act together.)  The report and opinion will be one of many; another drop in a sea of opinions by the time that hearings will finally take place. Many individuals, advocates and organizations, including some respected national and international human rights groups will be presenting their own testimony, papers, petitions, letters and reports that favor green cards or outright U.S. citizenship for the legal long-term workers who have lived in the CNMI for 5 or more years.  Additionally, the governor and members of the CNMI Legislature have made some outrageous statements and even lied about not having an opportunity to express their opinions on status prior to the issuance of the DOI Report, so their credibility is not held in high regard.

Still, unless revised, the report will send a message to those in power in Washington, DC.  Like the anti-federalization lawsuit, it puts into writing the desire to maintain a two-tiered society that was built on greed, supremacy and discrimination. It demonstrates that the CNMI's elected officials have little respect for the foreign workers, seeing them as disposable commodities who should remain disenfranchised, rather than as long-term community members who deserve basic human and civil rights. It promotes the "us versus them" mentality that creates division within the community. It will only reinforce the racist and elitist undertones that bubble up to the surface whenever the U.S. attempts to apply U.S. law to the CNMI.  It attempts to justify a class system that is against the values and democratic principles on which our nation was founded. It exposes that elected officials are motivated by their desire to maintain power, even if it means perpetuating a majority underclass on U.S. soil.

It also sends a message to the foreign contract workers. The message is that they are outsiders, and as long as they choose to remain in the CNMI they will always be outsiders in an island nation that wants them there only as labor units, and never as community members with full civil and human rights.  The message is that the long term foreign workers are not worthy to have representation or a voice, only to be used to "build the economy" by contributing their labor, skills and tax dollars.

These statements from the Saipan Tribune reinforce the elitist position of the Legislature:
Benavente said there's no denying that there are community members who oppose improved status for some 18,000 foreign workers who may suddenly become eligible to vote in the local elections. 
“Again, with FAS status, these foreign workers would still not be able to vote,” he said. 
Rep. Raymond Palacios (Cov-Saipan) said he supports an FAS status “only to fill the void to be left vacant by other foreign workers who won't be able to remain in the CNMI” when the transition period ends. 
He said once there is enough local workforce to run the entire economy, then these guest workers granted FAS status should leave the CNMI.
Are these people so threatened that they have to keep others down in order to build themselves up? It's depressing to watch people attempt to suppress others in a quest to maintain superiority or power.

There is truth in this statement by Benjamin Franklin:"They who have no voice nor vote in the electing of representatives do not enjoy liberty, but are absolutely enslaved to those who have votes."

The Senate is set to hold another series of public hearings on the new proposal. The first series was sparely attended with less than 1 percent of the population being represented, including the nonresidents who were present at the meetings.

All foreign contract workers should attend the hearings to express their opinions. One of the few rights that nonresidents have is freedom of expression!

Public Hearing Dates

Friday, February 18th, 6:00pm at the Rota Roundhouse

Saipan: Thursday February Feb. 24th, 6:00pm, at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe

Tinian: Friday, February 25th, 6:00pm at the cafeteria of Tinian Elementary School


TAGLISH said...


I need some courage to be at those hearings. I'm so scared to face these MONSTERS with no ears and one eye on their foreheads!

Wendy said...

Hi Taglish

Go and voice your opinions. I really think every worker who cares about his/her future should attend.

Anonymous said...

The poem is powerful. I wish they can read it and feel it like I do. How many years until they shed their racism or maybe never. They won't get me to shed a tear. Time to pack our pride and leave them to do there own work. There is no one who wants to sit with them at their table. It is empty now. They can cook there own dinner and eat alone. goodbye.

Anonymous said...

We Pinoys should retain pride in our motherland and go home with our heads held high.

No one promised us anything. If the CNMI economy is falling apart, that isn't our fault!

Wendy said...

Anonymous 12:09

I read Langston Hughes' poetry whenever I am too sad about what my country has become that I have to weap with shame. But what you said is a poem that "they" should read: "How many years until they shed their racism or maybe never. They won't get me to shed a tear. Time to pack our pride and leave them to do there own work. There is no one who wants to sit with them at their table. It is empty now. They can cook there own dinner and eat alone. goodbye." That is moving and powerful.

Another poem by Langston Hughes:


Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.

I have as much right
As the other fellow has
To stand
On my two feet
And own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I'm dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow's bread.

Is a strong seed
In a great need.

I live here, too.
I want freedom
Just as you.

Anonymous said...

We need to be at the hearing. all of us together and face them. Let them see 10,000 eyes asking why.

Anonymous said...

2:12 not 10,000 eyes. 10,000 foreign workers. Every one of us not on duty must attend the hearing.

Anonymous said...

by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Keep the dream alive! Overflowing crowds of CWs at the hearings!

Anonymous said...

It's a joke. It's moot. It will never fly in the US congress. These are people who are so very afraid to lose the power they long ago deserved to lose.

Anonymous said...

M'am, Thank you for fighting for us always. I will go to the hearing. If the congress can't pass the bill now I will wait. My son is in high school and will vote next year. Never for these.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it's great Wendy that YOU will not accept any other alternative. Stand up and be counted. But there is the rest of the world out there does not do everything you want or everything I want. It called compromise and you can make bet it's going to happen here.
I don't think it's such a bad compromise. They get "improved status" for just living and working here, not intending to immigrate here. I am not scarastic enough to call it a bonus, but for some people it probably is.
And your quote "as long as they choose to remain in the CNMI they will always be outsiders in an island nation that wants them there only as labor units, and never as community members with full civil and human rights".
They can't vote, but neither can I if I move to Italy and choose to live and work there. Did they do something different? They came here to work and "low and behold" they get status now. I'm not against it, but, yes, you are correct, unless they go through the complete immigration process to become a citizen like THOUSANDS of people do each year then they will probably not be able to vote. And don't go to the "The US is not Italy", we are, what do you say more fair and just and compassionate, and all of those other things. Yeah, well maybe not. Maybe we aren't that nice. I have 10 million reasons in the States and and a few thousands reasons to show you evidence of our "un-justness" or whatever platitude you want to use.
You don't have to like it, but I am surprised that they came up with this rather unique way to get around the status problem. FAS? Interesting.

The Saipan Blogger said...

Do you know if you can submit written testimony?

Wendy said...

Hi Angelo

You can try. Months ago, I emailed Paul Manglona and submitted the petition that over 7,000 signed and other documents with a letter. Never got a reply.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 2:42

It's not just me; most of the foreign contract workers want green cards with a pathway to citizenship. There should be one consistent law on U.S. soil.

You said, "They can't vote, but neither can I if I move to Italy and choose to live and work there. Did they do something different?" Italy is actually among the many countries that are starting to recognize that there cannot be democracy unless all community members have the right to vote. From Immigrant Voting Project:

New proposals recommend citizenship and vote for foreigners
(ANSA) - Rome, August 3 - Proposals to grant immigrants the vote and make it easier for them to become citizens are indications Italy is catching up with other countries, Welfare Minister Paolo Ferrero said on Thursday .

Announcing that the government would discuss the proposed changes in a Friday cabinet meeting, he said the moves "will introduce those civilized principles that have existed elsewhere for some time" .

"Democracy is impossible without universal laws," he continued. "Anyone living in a country, working there and paying taxes, must have the right to become a citizen of that country after five years, and must have voting rights"

I can't find much other information on Italy and whether or not legislation passed (I think not), but there is discussion and a movement there. Non-citizens in Italy can vote in some local elections.

In New Zealand citizens and non-citizens can vote in local and national elections.

Read this article to learn about other countries that allow non-citizen voting in local, state and national elections.

There is a movement in the mainland to restore non-citizen voting rights. For the first 150 years of our nation's history non-citizens were allowed to vote in the U.S.

The officials in the CNMI oppose a pathway to US Citizenship for the legal, long term nonresidents because they don't want them to vote. They want to maintain their corrupt political system where through political favors and nepotism they can manipulate elections and keep their power.

Many long term workers may have to leave if the economy doesn't improve, if jobs aren't available, and if discrimination and denial of rights continues. If I were a CNMI official I would be worried about the number of foreign workers and locals fleeing the sinking ship.

U.S. citizen said...

The reports said, “The public was overwhelmingly alarmed about offering so many nonresident workers an immigration status that would allow them to become citizens of the U.S. in the CNMI and in effect it would have on the status and rights of citizens who are of Northern Marianas Descent.”

OH NO. As a mainlander I am OVERWHELMINGLY alarmed that the CNMI people got U.S. citizenship and not one official consulted ME or any of the other taxpayers. Get those people to give back their citizenship. I don't want my money funding these CLOWNS. WHAT ABOUT MY RIGHTS?

Not to mention that the CLOWNS brought the CWs into the CNMI. They didn't just show up on some boats.

MAYBE all of the US citizens can VOTE every time someone applies for a green card or asylum. Choice 1, Yes, want them. Choice 2, No, don't. Choice 3,ok but give them FAS status. A** holes.

Com'on Stanley, let's have those re-negotiation talks. Let the US citizens decide your fate. You CLOWNS don't have a chance in hell of getting a yes vote.

Anonymous said...

well said US citizen... we salute you

Anonymous said...

US Citizen... You are right on the money!

Part of the problem here is, citizenship was conferred on a people who had no idea what it is to be an American. There is a reason for the citizenship courses and tests. No potential citizen should be exempt from taking these courses or passing the test.

Nani Doromal said...

My mom isn't the only one who wants the workers to have citizenship.

The fact you used the word "compromise" in a sentence pertaining to human rights is just disgusting.

I stand with my mom and all the foreign contract workers.


Nani Doromal said...

oops, I forgot to mention I was talking to Anonymous 3:42

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

The legislators don't represent me. I am a "local" and I support green cards too. I grew up with the children of the foreign workers. How many generations does it take until people are given full rights?