Rota Hearing Underscores Need to Participate in March and Hearing

February 22, 2011

Rota nonresident workers expressed disappointment with the Rota Senate Hearing, and with statements from CNMI Senate Vice-President Jude Hofschneider concerning the draft Senate report that was written to present to the U.S. Congress. Hofschneider was quoted in the Saipan Tribune as pushing the Senate's agenda to recommend a status that would permanently disenfranchise the legal CNMI long-term workers.

Hofschneider quote: "Some 30 showed up at the hearing. He said they had expected about a hundred to attend the hearing." What he failed to say was that there were 5 times as many nonresidents as residents in attendance. About five "locals" or residents showed up, and the remaining people were nonresidents.

Some nonresidents said since the U.S. Congress, and not the CNMI Legislature, will determine their status, they felt that their letters and signatures on the petitions requesting green cards and an unobstructed pathway to citizenship was enough.  Those who did attend the hearing said they wanted to be counted as objecting to the draft and standing up for green cards.

Hofschneider quote: “Most of the nonresident workers who were at the hearing just wanted a stable status and direction. They didn't really say whether they want U.S. citizenship or green card, but any status that will help them stabilize their plan to remain in the CNMI.”According to nonresident workers who I spoke to, this is not true. In fact, even a resident argued for green card status. I was told that the Senate panel questioned the resident asking him why he has that "sentiment" for the workers when he lived on Rota only two years.

Today's Marianas Variety clarified what happened at the hearing, noting that there were nonresidents at the Rota hearing who spoke up for green cards.  One worker was quoted as saying, “The real sentiment of the nonresident workers, especially those who have been here for a long time, is to have a green card.”

I think that everyone in the CNMI knows that the vast majority of the foreign workers would like a direct pathway to U.S. citizenship. Everyone, including the CNMI legislators. So why write a report that is untruthful and quotes only from people that support their argument rather than present the true picture?

Some nonresident workers who attended the hearing said that they were disappointed with the format. One guest worker said that the panel explained their position, and workers left because it was apparent that the Senators were not conducting the hearing to get the views of the community members, but to try to persuade the attendees to accept their draft report. The nonresidents workers were not in agreement with it.

After a while the meeting was conducted in Chamorro, and the majority in attendance -the nonresidents - could not understand.  Excluded from participating, my friend left also. Why have an open public hearing if those conducting it are going to speak in a language that most in attendance can not understand?


Nonresidents and supporters will meet at 4:00pm at Kilili Beach and march to the Multi-Purpose Center. Please contact Rabby 671-888-4025 (United Workers Movement), Ronnie Doca (FILCOWA), Itos Feliciano (Human Dignity Movement) or leaders of the Chinese or Korean communities for more information.

Nonresidents and supporters: Rabby Syed will be at the Tinian Elementary School at 3:00pm to meet you. For more information call 671-888-4025.

All nonresident workers who want to have a voice in determining their future are encouraged to attend the march and one of the upcoming Senate Hearings concerning status for the long-term workers. Please bring signs and written testimony expressing your personal views on status and telling how long you and your family has lived and worked in the CNMI. You may submit copies of previous letters that you have sent to the U.S. Congress through Wendy Doromal, if you like. Also, those who cannot attend the hearing may submit testimony for the U.S. Congress through Rabby Syed (contact at 671-888-4025), Ronnie Doca, or Itos Feliciano who will send the copies to human rights advocate Wendy Doromal who will distribute them to Congressional committees and U.S. officials. You may also send your testimony directly to Wendy Doromal via email: .

Pursuant to 1 CMC 8 9904A written comments may be submitted to the Office of Senator Jude U. Hofschneider Honorable Jesus P. Mafnas Memorial Building Capitol Hill Saipan prior to the convening of the hearing or at the hearing. Oral testimony may be presented at the public hearing. If you wish to present oral testimony please inform the Chairman no later than 24 hours prior to the public hearing.

The draft Senate report is flawed because it is based on the lie that the U.S. Department of Interior did not allow officials from the CNMI the opportunity to submit their views on status for long-term nonresidents. The officials had two years from the time the bill was passed, and many face-to-face meetings with Assistant Secretary Tony Babauta; however, they failed to express their views or submit a statement.  (See The Lie for complete details of meeting dates and failed opportunities.)

The draft Senate report claims that the majority of the nonresidents are fine with disenfranchisement, or an FAS-type status, which is untrue. Most nonresidents consider "improved status" as U.S. status that includes full social and political rights, or hope for a green card with an unobstructed pathway to citizenship. The draft Senate report ignored the written testimony submitted by the United Workers Movement, which outlined the demands of our petition with over 7,000 signatures asking for green cards and a pathway to citizenship for the legal long-term CNMI nonresidents. The UWM will be re-submitting their testimony. All nonresidents and their supporters are invited to add their signatures to the testimony.

The draft Senate Report denied the existence of systematic, commonplace and ignored labor abuses that thousands of nonresident workers suffered for decades under the dysfunctional CNMI labor and immigration system. Certain rights belong to every human being as outlined in the United Nation Declaration of Human Rights. Certain constitutional rights belong to every person as long as they are on U.S. soil.  Every person has the right be paid for every hour that they work, but under the CNMI labor and immigration system many nonresident workers were denied of this fundamental right. The nonresident workers who were abused or cheated of wages deserve to be paid the full compensation that is owed to them.

I will be joining with CNMI worker groups to appeal to U.S. officials and international bodies for help in requesting reparation so these victims may be made whole.


Anonymous said...

I have several friends who are going through the process of naturalizing their wives for dual / US Citizenship. These wives are hard working residents who happen to be Japanese. After spending thousands of dollars, jumping through US Federal Immigration hoops and loops, embarrassing 'interviews' they are about half way there. Of course this will take many months longer. Instant Citizenship? Hell no. Let them go through the normal process.

Wendy said...

Anonymous commenter: I removed your comment. I have also received phone calls and emails about this. I have contacted federal officials and am verifying the rumor with the source. No one can prevent people from exercising their constitutional rights of freedom of speech and freedom to assemble. NOW MORE THAN EVER PLEASE SHOW UP FOR THE MARCH AND HEARING!!!!

Wendy said...

Anonymous 2:16

What is your logic? That it was hard for some people, so make it hard for others? Instant citizenship like that granted to the residents in the CNMI? My guess is that the legal long-term workers will probably receive green cards and then have to take a citizenship test after 5 years like other immigrants.

Anonymous said...

It isn't "instant citizenship" 2:16. In many cases, these people have worked here for over 20 years. They've paid taxes, raised families and built this place. They've paid their dues. More dues certainly than someone who married a citizen and put up a little money to get citizenship. That to me, is more like instant citizenship. How about you have your wife labor here for 18 years before she can hope for the ability to get a greencard. She's taken the easier route by hitching up with you.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 10:30 Well said!