Senators Support FAS or Apartheid-Type Status for Nonresident Workers

March 4, 2011

"I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights." -Bishop Desmond Tutu

The CNMI Senate wants the U.S. Congress to "weigh the impact" of granting the legal nonresident workers status. The CNMI Senate is proposing an un-American FAS-type status only to long-term workers who have worked in the CNMI for ten or more years. Far fewer years is the norm for legal nonresident workers to qualify for a green card under the U.S. immigration system.  Ten years working for the horrible pay (many time no pay) and ill-treatment that the majority of the legal nonresidents had to endure in the CNMI, should qualify them for much more than a status that would keep them voiceless, disenfranchised and members of a underprivileged underclass ruled over by the "local" minority. The legal, long-term (five or more years) CNMI nonresident workers should be granted permanent U.S. residency immediately with a pathway to U.S. citizenship.

U.S. officials should weigh the impact that working under the unjust CNMI system has had on the legal nonresident workers and their families. What is the impact of earnestly working and never being paid? What is the impact of employers routinely stealing wages, making illegal deductions, failing to pay medical bills or otherwise violating contracts? What is the impact of filing labor complaints and never having the DOL-issued orders enforced?  What is the impact of scam employers and recruiters? What is the impact of criminal-employers who collectively owe millions of dollars to thousands of cheated workers remaining unpunished with no consequences for their criminal acts? What is the impact of CNMI officials falsely claiming that abuses were not excessive, routine or ongoing?

The U.S. Congress must look at the issue of reparations for the cheated and abused nonresident workers.  They may also consider issuing a formal apology to the nonresident workers and their sponsor governments for ignoring the ongoing plight of the legal, long-term nonresident workers, for failure to prosecute the abusers, and for allowing the routine theft of wages and abuses for decades on U.S. soil.

What would be the impact of establishing a new INA category that reflects more the ideals of apartheid than the democratic principles on which our country was founded? What would be the impact on the reputation of the United States?

The Saipan Tribune reports:
The amendment asks Congress to consider the economic and employment impacts and effects on U.S. citizens in the CNMI “of granting nonimmigrant workers improved legal status which entitles them to social welfare and employment benefits.”

By a vote of 8-0, senators adopted Senate Resolution 17-42, Senate Draft 1 yesterday afternoon.

The resolution, introduced by Senate Vice President Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian), encourages Congress to adopt the Senate recommendation on improving the immigration status of guest workers.

It states in part that the CNMI Senate requests Congress “to accept” the FRIA Committee's recommendation “as a sensible compromise on improved legal immigration status for guest workers and retention of the right to self-government as guaranteed in the Covenant between the U.S. and the Commonwealth.”
I am really missing something here. How can the act of the U.S. Congress granting status make a difference in "impact" that nonresidents have on the CNMI? The tens of thousands of nonresident workers are in the CNMI already and they have been making an "impact" for decades.  The nonresident workers were brought to the CNMI legally with the endorsement and encouragement of CNMI "leaders" and officials. How can giving them status create a new impact?  Any economic and employment impact was created when the CNMI created the guest worker program and continues today.

What social welfare and employment benefits would the Senate's proposed FAS-type status provide? There are no CNMI social welfare programs. As it is now, the nonresident workers live in extreme poverty and every day they must make difficult choices based on severe economic restrictions. Choices that the low minimum wage (not a living wage) supported by CNMI leaders have forced: "Should I buy medication or food?" "Should I pay CUC or the rent?" "How can I sue for back wages, when I have no money for an attorney?"

Is it because the CNMI has such ridiculously low wages that the legislators assume that if granted some type of U.S. status that these new citizens (second class citizens if FAS-type is approved) would qualify for federal welfare programs? Would the CNMI demand impact funds much like the federal funds that they receive for FAS citizens under the Compact-Impact Agreement?

I am guessing (from what I read in the Saipan Tribune) that the CNMI legislators look at this FAS-type status as a way for the CNMI to collect more Compact-Impact aid from the U.S. taxpayers. These federal  dollars assist Hawaii, Guam and the CNMI to offset the local expenses for education, heath and other government services that are incurred as a result of FAS citizens living in these places.  The agreement between the U.S. and the Federated Associated States allows these non-U.S. citizens to travel to, and work and live in the U.S. territories and U.S. mainland.

Such FAS-type status should not be applied to legal, long-term nonresident workers who should be viewed as future citizens under U.S. immigration law. It would deny the long-term (five years or more), legal nonresident workers of ever becoming U.S. citizens with full rights and responsibilities. Ever --even if they someday opted to leave the CNMI to live and work in the United States where the argument about "self-government" would be moot.

The Senate's proposal is no "sensible compromise" since the majority of the people in the CNMI,  including the nonresident workers and supporters, are asking the U.S. Congress to grant green cards and a pathway to citizenship to the legal, long-term workers who have worked in the CNMI as the previous petitions and testimonies prove.

It is not "sensible" to propose an un-American and un-democratic status. It has been decades since women won the right to vote and even longer since the former slaves won the right to vote. Our country does not now need to take a huge step backwards in progress for liberty, equality and democratic principles to support a CNMI society of the privileged and unprivileged. It does not need to endorse the continuation of the present CNMI system with all of its flaws that is based on a ruling class over a class denied of rights and privileges.  Such a system encourages abuse and discrimination.

A proposal for FAS-type status is proposal to establish an apartheid-type system on U.S. soil. The CNMI Senators support and propose this status because it is the status that would make the least changes and would merely continue the oppression, disenfranchisement and discrimination of a large and valuable segment of the CNMI's society. It is the only status that would guarantee that the "locals" could keep their political and social power over the majority underclass of nonresidents.

If the U.S. Congress does decide to grant FAS-type status to the qualifying workers, then it would also have to take responsibility for the unjust local CNMI laws that would surely follow to ensure that CNMI government maintains its dictatorial grip on the unrepresented, but tax paying underclass.  The U.S. Congress would have to accept responsibility for perpetuating the unjust system that has hurt so many innocent nonresident workers -- the very system that PL 110-229 intended to finally end. The Congress would have to answer to the abused workers and to their sponsoring governments.

Self government does not mean oppression of others.  It does not mean failure to enforce laws if foreigners are the victims. It does not mean maintaining a failed system that has allowed for abuses, xenophobia and discrimination. It does not mean creating a new immigration category that supports the principles of apartheid, rather than democratic and just principles.


Anonymous said...

Your comparison of FAS-style status to apartheid is brilliant and spot on! It is a dangerous proposal. It would be a BIG mistake for Congress to enact such an unjust law and for the President to sign it. It won't happen!

Anonymous said...

I agree a FAS status should not even be considered. Another thing that gets me is when people say, "What did the guest workers do to earn US citizenship?" What did indigenous NMI citizens do to "earn" US citizenship? What does anyone who is born somewhere do to "earn" citizenship. It not a contest or a test. The USA is a nation of immigrants. People who came and contributed to the betterment of the USA got citizenship. The legal guest workers should be given it also! Good luck to all of you!

the teacher said...

This will never get to the US President to deal with and I expect the US Congress to completely ignore it.

jianan said...

The FAS-type status is only another name for an apartheid-type status.The meaning of its essence is to oppress , disenfranchise and discriminate the holder of the status.

Anonymous said...

I've read it many times in the blog. To not give improved status or outright citizenship is 'dehumanizing' to CWs. So non Americans are less than human? These people are Citizens of other countries. What is wrong with just going back home?

Anonymous said...

Crooked men trying to hold on to crooked power. They're soon to learn what it is like to live in a real democracy, where your people anger when wages aren't raised, when results are not seen, when everyone has a stake and can vote, the days of these long-term politicians is coming to a close.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 4:13

No one should propose a status that they themselves would not want for themselves. The FAS-type status is dehumanizing. It reinforces the two-tiered society in the CNMI. It will perpetuate labor and human rights abuses. It creates a permanent class of have and have nots, privileged and underprivileged, represented and unrepresented. It is un-American and undemocratic. It is DEHUMANIZING to consider people as disposable commodities and labor units rather than as future citizens.

Why don't the long-term nonresident workers just go "home"? For many reasons. Some no longer have a home in their former birthplaces. After working for decades they no longer have ties with people, no longer own property or have job opportunities in the countries that they left. It is more difficult for those with US citizen children. Many of these children don't speak the native language of their parents' homelands, and would have difficulty in schools. Some countries charge a fee for education, which unemployed returning workers could not pay. In China the fees for having more than one child are staggering. Finally, to most of the CNMI long-term nonresident workers the CNMI is their home.

Anonymous said...

Move along, nothing to see here. The CNMI Senate's "recommendation" is only meant to impress the political audience here in the CNMI. It's a bit like the "resolutions" and "pronouncements" made by North Korea. Even CNMI legislators are smart enough to know that the US Congress doesn't care about their "resolutions," or at least not any more than they'd care about a "resolution" sent to them by any other undistinguished group of people.

Anonymous said...

Apartheid was a system where native South Africans were disenfranchised in their own land by a people who colonized and dominated them from the outside. If Chamorros had come from somewhere else, and proposed FAS status for native Filipinos here, that would be more like Apartheid. The Senate's proposal is a compromise to allow workers that are not from here, and have no legal entitlement to any status, to remain and work.

Anonymous said...

This is amazing political theater bordering on the absurd, if it weren't so true. How can anyone defend the continued argument from any CNMI elected official that all that the CNMI indigenous want is to help the "guest" workers by giving them improved status - FAS or house nigger (any difference really). Anyway, top this nonsense with the fact that these yahoos are going to deliver this "recommendation" to Congress in person with the fact that the Governor and his entourage are now in DC and the CNMI AG attending the national attorney general's conference in DC. Really, the CNMI is facing hard economic times and we had tighten our collective belts for the good of all while thse disfunctional fat, and I mean fat, cats are jet setting over 10,000 miles to play government. Anyone else here think this is beyond the pale even for the CNMI? Oh, but Bucky defenders will say that the National Association of Attorney Generals is picking up the tab. To which, I politely say BS look at the web site, NAAG isn't a charity group. The CNMI is paying for Bucky to play big man while his office faces reductions in staff and non payment of wages. OMG it is too much

Wendy said...

Anonymous 7:03

I am well aware of what apartheid is. I said that FAS-type status is an apartheid-type status.


a·part·heid (-pärtht, -ht)
1. An official policy of racial segregation formerly practiced in the Republic of South Africa, involving political, legal, and economic discrimination against nonwhites.
2. A policy or practice of separating or segregating groups.
3. The condition of being separated from others; segregation.

The crime of apartheid as defined by international law includes in part this statement: "Any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country and the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups..

It is my belief that FAS-type status more resembles the principles of segregation and an apartheid-type status than democratic American principles.

Anonymous said...

Hey Wendy, I was about to jump on you for using the word "apartheid" like I jumped on you last time for saying "civil rights." But you explain your point very well in the comment above, and now I agree with you.

Anonymous said...

For some reason, at no time over the last 20+ years have I heard any of you folks denouncing the FAS status of actual FAS citizens. Is it OK for Micronesians, but it becomes an outrage when applied to Filipinos and other nonresident workers?

Wendy said...

Anonymous 6:24

I HAVE! Over and over I denounced FAS status! In a meeting with Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo and then staffer Tony Babauta I denounced the FAS status for long-term workers. I denounced it to David Cohen, to many staffers and officials. I denounced it in letters and in the report that I prepared for the markup hearing in 2007.

There is also a huge distinction between Micronesians and long-term, legal CNMI workers. The FAS status given to the citizens of Freely Associated States is an agreement between the U.S. and other nations. We are speaking here about applying this status to legal, long-term nonresident workers who have lived and worked in a U.S. commonwealth. FEDERAL immigration law applies to the CNMI and there is absolutely no reason to create a new FAS-style status that would deny the people given that status to ever have full social and political rights and U.S. citizenship.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 12:36

Glad I could explain my position! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Don't like FAS status? That's OK. You might not like the next thing they come up with, and the next, and the next. It's all geared to do one thing...nothing. This is the policy of the US with Illegals. (Note: I know the CW's are hear legally, but they are looking for the same thing) Just ignore the problem and let them work and mow the grass and every few years someone makes a big deal of it and we have to rush around and do...nothing.
Whatever maze they put the workers here in it all has one ending...the same as where it began. People will marry, People will move, People will petition and get status. People will die. People will do all the things that people do until, finally, there are very few people left to deal with.
What I don't think will happen is that they will actually deport anybody that has a job or at least anyone that show they can sustain themselves. To do that would be, how do you say, Un-American.

Anonymous said...

Why should nonresident workers have a better status than the Palauans and Chuukese who have lived and worked here just as long as they have, if not longer?

Anonymous said...

Noni 4:08 Gee! you have status why you keep yourself here? are you crazy?

Jianan Ma said...

The FAS-type status is an apartheid-type Status.
First let us make a comparison between the apartheid status and the FAS-type status.
1) The apartheid was a system of legal racial separation which dominated the Republic of South Africa from 1948 until 1993
The FAS-type status may become a status of legal racial separation which will dominate the long-term legal aliens from different countries in the CNMI, USA.
2) Under the apartheid, various races were separated into different regions, and discrimination against people of color, but legally entrenched with whites having priority housing, jobs, education, and political power.
Under the FAS-type status, different holders will maintain status quo to continue to live in the fear, and legally entrenched with LPR or citizens having priority housing, jobs, education, and political power.
3) The apartheid system separated different races, and fraternization between Africans of different tribes, Asians, and Europeans.
The FAS-type status will separate different races, and fraternization between locals and aliens, FAS-type-aliens and Non-FAS-type-aliens.
4) The apartheid sparked significant internal resistance and violence as well as a long trade embargo against South Africa.
The FAS-type status is a life-time status, which will cause not only family problems but social problems because these holders don’t come from the Freely Associated States (FAS).
5) The main cause of the Apartheid Status is slavery.
The main cause of the FAS-type Status is slavery.
The conclusion of an apartheid-type status and the FAS-type status is exactly the same. Therefore Wendy is quite right.

Green Cards for All! said...

“Say ‘No’ to apartheid. Say ‘No!’”

Workers are not labor units.

Justice means reparations. We don’t want no stinkin’ FAS!

Repeal Freely Associated State status for the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau. Islanders are not disposable commodities, either.

Green Cards or nothing!

The Pathway to Citizenship beckons.

Anonymous said...

the people who built the CNMI are not from here, Palau or any other micronesian entity. They are from the PI, Thailand, Korea, China, etc. They deserve so much more than to be put down like this. One of the great ironies is that most chamorros are more filipino than anything else.

Anonymous said...

Green Cards for All, at least you're consistent.

You, on the other hand, Anonymous 5:24, are getting closer than you may want to admit to the old manifest destiny concept of "We, rather than the indolent natives, are moraly entitled to rule here, because our work ethic is so much superior to theirs."

Anonymous said...

6:16 there is nothing regarding the rights of cws in the CNMI that has anything remotely to do with manifest destiny.

As you are most likely well aware of, many CWs have been significantly abused over the course of the past 3 decades. It still goes on. Are you suggesting that people not be paid fair wages, or be physically or psychologically abused because they are "not from here" and/or because they actually have a work ethic??

Anonymous said...

I am in favor of fair wages and not in favor of abuse. I am also not in favor of people staging a hostile takeover of someone else's islands, especially those who attempt to use their own claims of moral superiority to justify it. That is classic 19th century imperialism.

Anonymous said...

what??? we are likely more chamorros, no way! never