February 24, 2011

Photos by Itos Feliciano ©2011

An estimated 500-600 nonresidents showed up for the "We the People March" to protest inaccuracies in the draft Senate report and to send a message to the U.S. Congress that they support green cards and a pathway to citizenship for the long term legal nonresident workers in the CNMI. Former Representative Tina Sablan addressed the marchers at Kilili Beach expressing her support in their quest for green cards and a pathway to citizenship.

Nonresidents and their supporters gathered at Kilili Beach and then held a peaceful walk to the Multi-Purpose Center to attend the Senate hearing. Protesters carried green flags and wore green ribbons to represent green cards. Most of the nonresident workers have lived and worked in the CNMI more than 5 years. Had they been working in the mainland for that length of time, most would have already been eligible for green cards.

Nonresidents and far fewer "local" residents jammed the Multi-Purpose Center to submit testimony to the Senate Committee led by Senate Vice-President Jude Hofschneider who is Chair of the Senate Committee on Federal Relations and Independent Agencies. An huge overflowing crowd of nonresidents was outside because the center's capacity is only 280.  The hearing lasted for hours.

The draft Senate report was based on testimony from hearing held last summer. Those hearings were attended by less than one percent of the CNMI population, but the report reflected "overwhelming opinion" of residents, and omitted all testimony from nonresidents and residents that supported green cards and eventual U.S. citizenship status for the legal nonresident workers.  The report also contained misinformation and inaccuracies in an attempt to minimize the prevalent and ongoing labor and human rights abuses that occurred in the islands a result of the CNMI-run labor and immigration system.

Congratulations to the United Workers Movement, Human Dignity Movement, the Chinese, Filipino and Korean groups and nonresidents for the successful march and attendance at the hearing.  It takes courage to boldly oppose the government's agenda when you are a member of the disenfranchised underclass lacking political and social rights.


The Marianas Variety reports that the majority of the 30 residents and nonresidents who delivered oral testimony at the Saipan Hearing recognizes the need for permanent residency for long-term foreign workers, with most who testified supporting green cards and a pathway to citizenship:
--Former Rep. Tina Sablan spoke in favor of granting improved status to long-term guest workers.

--Conrad J. Ocampo, a guest workers for 12 years in the CNMI who is now a U.S. permanent resident, said nonresident workers will not leave the islands after gaining improved status.

He said he worked in the U.S. but “chose to return here because my family, relatives and beloved local and ‘kababayan’ friends are here.”

He added, “These guest workers, just like me, have their roots here already and will opt to stay when given improved status. So your fear of losing the guest workers when given improved status is baseless.”

--The United Workers Movement, the Marianas Advocates for Humanitarian Affairs, or MAHAL, and the Human Dignity Movement reiterated their request for improved immigration status that includes a pathway to U.S. citizenship.

“Give us the freedom to contribute our best and for the betterment of the community,” MAHAL stated in its testimony. “The sense of belonging will give us the power, the ability to dedicate our lives to participate fully in the enhancement of the economy….”

--A Chinese man, who struggled to express himself in English, said he has two children born here and has lived on Saipan for 17 years already.

He said he has no choice but to go back to China if he can’t get a green card. “But it’s not good for my children,” he added.

--Former Senate legal counsel Steve Woodruff said the Senate recommendation is unacceptable and useless.

He said there are 16,000 to 20,000 guest workers in the CNMI but still no federal regulation for their hiring even though their umbrella permit is expiring in Nov. 2011.

“What the CNMI needs is an immediate status for people that were here legally on Nov. 27, 2009,” he said.

--The Dekada Movement expressed support for the granting of an “immediate stable status” for nonresident workers before Nov. 2011, when their umbrella permits expire.

Dekada said nonresidents who were in the CNMI with a legal status on Nov. 27, 2009 should be allowed to continue to stay and work legally here for five more years.

Dekada said all nonresidents with uncollected awarded claims should be eligible for U.S. visas and allowed to petition for adjustment of status.

Moreover, Dekada said, “all aliens legally resident in the CNMI for at least 10 years as of May 8, 2008 should be eligible to self-petition for green card and adjustment of status with fees waived.” 
Most nonresident workers are requesting green cards and a direct pathway to citizenship for legal, nonresident workers who have been in the CNMI for 5 years or longer, as is indicated by the petition signed by over 7,000. On the other hand, most "local" residents argued against U.S. citizenship expressing a "fear of becoming a minority in their land." Of course, that statement is already moot since by bringing in tens of thousands of foreign workers and renewing them for decades, the CNMI already ensured that the residents would be a minority.

The Variety reported that John Oliver Gonzales made a statement indicating he didn't understand what the protesters and nonresidents were asking for:
John Oliver Gonzales, Joeten-Kiyu Public Library executive director, said his father, who was born in the Philippines and is now a U.S. citizen, came to Saipan to work.

He said his father never protested, never held placards and “disrespected” the island but went through the legal process to obtain U.S. citizenship.

“The United States has divided us…and continue to divide us — enough; we must protect self-government,” he said.
Freedom of speech, protesting or holding a sign is not disrespectful. Furthermore, none of the nonresidents asking for green cards or U.S. citizenship are asking to bypass any law. They are asking for the U.S. Congress to enact a law based on the DOI Report as mandated in PL 110-229.

Other "local" residents speaking against U.S. status were CNMI Descents for Self-Government and Indigenous Rights adviser Oscar C. Rasa and Jess Pangelinian.

Barry Hirschbein from the CNMI Department of Labor was reportedly unable to respond to Senator Hofschneider's question asking what the impact on the workforce would be if the "nonresidents were given CNMI residency status.  It seems an odd question since there is no such thing as CNMI residency status and likely won't be.  The CNMI has no power to grant status to the foreign workforce; only the United States government can. The intent of PL 110-229 was to bring the CNMI into accordance with U.S. immigration law, "consistent with the goals of comprehensive immigration reform"as sated in the DOI Report.

The Marianas Variety also noted that Governor Fitial opposed granting improved status to the legal, long-term nonresident workers, and wants the federal government "to extend their umbrella permits indefinitely. One federal official told me that is not possible. The USCIS has no authority to do that; it would take an act of the U.S. Congress. If the Congress was going to act, it certainly would grant U.S. status, and would not likely even consider extending a CNMI-issued permit that has been the cause of controversy and misunderstanding.



Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Some residents also spoke for green cards and US Citizenship for us. Thank you Tina and Glen!

Anonymous said...

is it illegal to lie in a hearing or is that only a court hearing? dekada says they got 4000 members. no way.at most 25.They don't even have any meeting since years because the ocws want money back.show us a member list and my name better not be on it!

Anonymous said...

Noni 7:16AM

You made my day! The truth with the morning coffee! Yes, it's illegal to commit perjury before a committee in the US. In the NMI everyone lies, and then they lie about the lies. I like the idea of demanding a list of Dekada members, but it ain't gonna happen. And you can all forget ever seeing that $100 you forked over for the promise of a green card. Now the group is screwing you way worse than pocketing $100 by saying they support FAS status and inflating their numbers by 4,000 percent! The committee figures it will look good for the NMI to lie to the US Congress and say that the largest group of OCWS (not!) in the NMI supports what the NMI government supports. (What will happen when the truth comes out?)You can bet that Woodruff is going to be working for the NMI gvt. soon or one of his illegal sidekicks will somehow be given legal status. What a farce!

Anonymous said...

As with many protests for anything, the signs are not accurate. "Dont let CNMI Gov. break our family by trying to send our parents home" The CNMI is not going to send anyone home. The USA is in charge of that now. In fact, focusing on the CNMI government is, in my opinion, rather a waste of time. Oh, they want you to get some type of status, just not one that would let you go to the US and work. Note: The sign should say " USA, please give me green card so I can get off this stinking island and go wash dishes in Oklahoma City".

Anonymous said...

Don't worry. The march and hearing was good. We showed we are in the majority. The US Congress all ready has our petitions with over 7,000 signatures for green cards and US citizenship.

Green Cards for All! said...

Go green.

Next stop, Tan Siu Lin Plaza!

Anonymous said...

8:17 The NMI Senate is sending a report of lies to the US Senate and that won't help get anyone a secure status. You complain about a sign but not about the BIG inaccuracies? How about the lies in the Senate Report? How about fudging an official report to lie about numbers of workers who support the Senate's FAS status? Those inaccuracies you don't see, but you bitch about a sign that's probably in the garbage. What about an official report that is a LIE and is permanent record? It makes us look like idiots. But hell, let's attack a sign!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to the leaders and CWs for the great turnout!

Anonymous said...

8:46 WOW!So true.It's easy to attack for the sake of attacking and pretend the real problem is not even there. The old "Emperor Has No Clothes" syndrome. too bad we can all see.

Anonymous said...

8:17AM Actually, the sign has some truth. The Guv is in Washington asking USCIS to send the unemployed workers home even though the US said those with umbrella permits could stay until Nov 2011.

Anonymous said...

The best sign is "PAY US NOW!"

Anonymous said...

It seems that with the heavy security these elected have a fear of the people. Could it be a guilty conscience?
I could see the cops monitoring the march to prevent any violence involving spectators.
But from the accounts of the cops inspecting the hand bags etc.it seems there is concern of harm to the hearing board. But then maybe this is just the norm now.
Anytime I have ever been to any hearings I have never seen this.

I wonder wonder how much Kilili is aware of these actions and if he has any ideas to attempt to push a decision from the appropriate agency?
But I believe that some agency in the US has to do something soon to address this issue. one way opr the other and send it to the US Congress, if warranted, before the end of the year.

Anonymous said...

Yes guilty conscience for trying to keep slave-CWs in slavery so they can keep power. There is no threat from CWs. They follow laws and are non-violent.

peaceful protest said...

7:10pm The security was because senators wanted to "protect" themselves from the NONVIOLENT CWs who marched.They tried to stop the march because marchers are for US citizenship not FAS or one of the 10 or 15 years plans Dekada members have.It looks bad for senators to say workers want FAS status when 100s march for US citizenship.The Senators think they are good for giving those slave CWs status that keeps them down.They want to shut them up so they could pull off their lie report with feds.Senators want CWs to bow to them.They want to hear "Thank yo masta, we like to stay and be slave here." Maybe there afraid of the slave-CWs uprising. So stupid they don't see they are non-violent. Look who commits crimes in NMI, and its not the CWs.