Status Question in the News (Again)

March 23, 2011

Photo by Itos Feliciano

The big news from the CNMI press today is that Congressman Gregorio (Kilili) Sablan declared that guest workers "will not be given green cards or U.S. citizenship."

I am guessing that Congressman Sablan made this statement because as everyone knows, the U.S. Congress no longer is functioning. It is politically polarized with members pushing party agendas, refusing to compromise, and acting more as obstructionists than legislators. No one expects that the issue of status will be acted upon any time soon. However, as a provision of the CNRA, status will eventually have to be decided.

There is support for green cards and a pathway to citizenship for the legal, long-term foreign workers among members of the U.S. Congress. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Asian Pacific Caucus support a path for undocumented aliens– what more for legal nonresident workers! President Obama also supports a way for undocumented aliens to become citizens.

I contacted a couple of congressional offices Washington, DC today to get their take on the status question.  All made similar statements and were in agreement that the only reason there would be no action on the status issue was because of the divisive political climate and not because anyone objected to under 20,000 legal long-term workers being granted green cards and a pathway to citizenship. Not one person said that there would be no green cards or citizenship for the CNMI's legal, long-term nonresident workers or that there had been any such discussion.

The Marianas Variety reported:
Sablan told the officers and members of the NMI Women’s Association that green cards or “instant” U.S. citizenship for guest workers is not exactly what he is working on because even if he would suggest it in Congress, “I won’t be successful.”

He told reporters again yesterday during the economic restoration summit that the U.S. Congress won’t give long-term guest workers an automatic green card.

But he said he will try to help nonresidents married to U.S. citizens; those who were granted CNMI permanent residency from 1977 to 1981; and the 92 individuals who were born here between 1974 and Jan. 7, 1978.
No one has asked for "automatic green cards." Advocates and the petitioners have requested green cards with a pathway to citizenship for the legal, long-term nonresidents who have lived and worked in the CNMI for five years or more. Some of the long-term nonresident workers have been in the CNMI for decades. What is "automatic" about such a significant contribution and stake in the community?

Those classified as permanent CNMI residents who have lived in a political limbo for decades absolutely should be awarded green cards. However, legislation based on marital status or procreation may be deemed unconstitutional. How is it fair that a single nonresident male who has lived and worked in the CNMI for 32 years would not even be considered for status, yet a married nonresident worker with a U.S. citizen child who has lived and worked in the CNMI for far less time would be granted status?

Previously Congressman Sablan introduced similar legislation, H.R. 3658. This is not a new concept. I disagree with it. Ask for all legal, long-term nonresident workers, not some. To deem some more deserving because of marital or family status is discriminatory.

While Congressman Sablan may have an opinion, all of the members of the House and Senate will weigh in. Few, if any, would support the CNMI Senate's FAS-type status which is more akin to apartheid than democratic or American principles. The Obama Administration would not support such a proposal either. The FAS-style status recommended by the CNMI Senators will not be a consideration. One congressional staffer said there is no need to compare oranges to apples.  There are problems with FAS citizens in the U.S. and comparisons of the legal, long-term CNMI nonresident workers and the citizens of the Freely Associated States do not make sense.

One staffer agreed that the workers have suffered years of abuses and nonpayment of wages. Green cards could provide a way to make up for the negligence and inaction of the federal government who allowed the injustices for years.

It may take a while, but I am sure that the legal long-term foreign workers will eventually be granted green cards and a pathway to citizenship. When a new Congress is elected we can we expect to see some much-needed legislation passed on this issue and others.


Anonymous said...

'It may take a while, but I am sure that the legal long-term foreign workers will eventually be granted green cards and a pathway to citizenship.'

Slowly but surely the realization that the Federal takeover is doing more harm than good is sinking in. Sablan is jumping from one foot to the other not directly saying anything at all. Support, no support. Green cards no green cards. Yes, no, maybe so.

Wishful thinking and prayer vigils can't convince some lawmakers who have no idea where Saipan is to grant green cards while the US hinges on an economic depression.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 6:49

The Federal takeover has nothing to do with the makeup of the Congress and the political games that is the cause of blocking all legislation. The argument that U.S. lawmakers don't know where the NMI is also is not a reason for the delay in action. The only reason is that GOP obstructionists are hell bent on stopping any legislation from passing.

Anonymous said...

Oh, please. Federal takeover isn't doing "more harm than good." It was enough to take control of immigration away from the crooks and traffickers who run DOLI. CNRA was not about giving status to aliens, it was about national security and preventing future labor abuse and sex trafficking. The "more harm than good" argument usually comes from those who were reaping huge profits from $3/hr architects and nurses, or who took a cut from the thousands of workers illegally recruited. If we lose a few non-contributing Chinese meth dealers and pimps or a few non-contributing Korean mom-and-pop stores, that's no big loss.

Some immigration benefit will come to the workers who remain, and more power to them, but not for a while.

Anonymous said...

Just once I wish the CNMI reporters would ask questions of those in Washington DC and get their opinions before printing stories that are so off balance.At least here there's some research and investigation. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Noni 7:58 Agreed. And judging by comments in MV most NMI residents think that their Congressman is the only voice in congress and that NMI is the center of the universe!

Anonymous said...

So much for the senators' trip to DC. What a waste of taxpayer $$$. At least Paul got to attend Ramona's hearing. Wasn't that the real purpose?

Anonymous said...

Come on, Wendy, not all the blame should go to the current Congress. What happened during the last session when it was controlled by the Dems? They had their opportunity and didn't do a thing because in reality they don't care about a few thousand people who will most likely never be their constituents. It's easy to come to the island and offer support when you are standing in front of crowds and reporters. It's quite another to actually do something. You should blame them, not the current group who have never made promises. Where is Stayman and his friends now who said they would take care of it? What's so sad about this is all the people who believed them and are now scared about what the future holds.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 8:24

I agree the last Congress should have acted, but that Congress was a partisan mess too. We can't look backwards. I am writing about reality now and accessing what may occur in the near future. The current "group" that is blocking everything in Congress do not even deserve a salary. But at least they have angered many American voters and will be gone in the next election. Mr. Stayman is in DC. Call him and he'll speak to you if you want to know what he is doing. He is very accessible. Ask Meyers and the CNMI senators who just went to DC.

Yes, everyone (here and in the CNMI) should be afraid of what the future holds. The GOP wrecking crew is destroying our future and chipping away at our democratic principles.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for telling it like it is. All the doomsday reports are getting tiring.

the teacher said...

I was for federalization to make the NMI a better place and to help the future here for thousands of former students.

Politics and the worldwide depression have sealed the fate on the green card case. Hundreds of foreign nationals here, likely thousands, have improved their lives and status here through marriage, employment, business, and even some fraud to improve their status though.

If a CGW wants to stay in the NMI now, I would advise having a sponsoring employer, because without one, the US public is against green cards or immigration reform.

Anonymous said...

teacher,some CWs are scammers but most aren't. Most came here to improve there lives like you say.most deserve GREEN CARDS!

Anonymous said...

"If a CGW wants to stay in the NMI now, I would advise having a sponsoring employer, because without one, the US public is against green cards or immigration reform."

Not true:,-path-to-citizenship


Anonymous said...

This subject is the turtle crawling thru the molasses. It's slooooow. And it will stay that way. Mix up the do-nothing Congresses we have and have had with a subject that people would just like keep on the back of the back burner and you have...nothing. At least nothing worth anything. Our Congressman has said that Congress won't go for this or that. I doubt that it will go for anything that interrupts the status quo too much. I would think the last thing they would want is a video of plane loads of lightly skilled workers arriving legally in the US. With a shortage of jobs for citizens, allowing other folks to come to the USA and compete might not be seen as a plus. Forget the "fairness" of it, it does not play well in the media and with the upcoming election that is a real negative. There will be some rules and regs, but think of it as the Christmas gift you get from that weird aunt. Open the box and it's a shoe spoon or a belt buckle. It's something but really...nothing.

Anonymous said...


the teacher said...

"teacher,some CWs are scammers but most aren't. Most came here to improve there lives like you say.most deserve GREEN CARDS!"

I agree that most aren't scammers, came to improve their lives and that of their families, and diserve some sort of improved status...and I never said otherwise. I did say tying all foreign nationals here with legal contract workers hurts the case for the legitimate CGWs in my opinion. Due to the economy, we will soon see that the number of workers here with a sponsoring employer will be less than 5k. The US economy has convinced most moderates that green cards/citizenship is not the best thing for America right now. Kilili's bill seeks to help IRs here, mostly from PI, because their spouse doesn't reach the minimum income threshold. Every person here knows that almost every worker here would line up for public assistance if it was almost all would qualify based on income or the lack thereof and that is the strength of the case against immigration reform. I read the dailycoz article above and Americans are currently and overwhelmingly against offering anything that will cost them money and 13 million impoverished people that can receive aid and petition relatives is not on the table for the next decade.

And I'm a Democrat, not a hand holder, and I think the case for green cards/citizenship here for non-IRs is lost.

Green Cards for All! said...

Happy Commonwealth Covenant Day!

If Kilili thinks that the cause is lost until the Democrats retake the House in 2013, then perhaps he can work with DHS ICE and the USAF to establish an airlift for those guest workers who do not find employers to petition by 28 Nov 2011 and who wish to take their families back to Manila.

It's the least they can do!

Justice for all.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Let Stanley and the cronies renegotiate the Covenant. Take the blue passports from the ungratefuls and give them to the deserving OCWs. The NMI can't survive without two things..the USA and the OCWs.

Anonymous said...

Kilili may be noble in thinking he's helping families stay together by selecting only some categories of workers, but I have got to agree with you, Wendy. It's discriminatory to selectively pick and choose who's allowed some kind of status based on whether a person is married to a local or has US citizen offspring. That won't fly because other members of Congress will recognize the unconstitutionality and injustice of such a proposal. They may fear being sued by a group of single aliens, married aliens with no kids, or gay aliens who worked legally in the islands for 20 some years, but didn't meet the marriage or parenting qualifications.

Anonymous said...

Here is an interesting new article. A 95 year old who served in WW2 may be deported and denied social security.

Now, this man lives in the United States. If the DHS is threatening to deport a war hero, do you really think that they wanna give out better status to some Filipinos and Pakistanis?

Anonymous said...

Let us pray,

Dear Almighty God, be with us on these difficult times. Guide us and shower us wisdoms that we may not say words or do things that may hurt other people. Life is short and our journey on this earth may end based on your timeline. So let love sealed every heart of men not only in the CNMI but all over the earth. There are signs of time and we must be reminded that life here on earth is temporary and life after death is eternal. Shower everyone with blessings and let your will and plans in our lives be done.

Let us feel your eternal love from this day on!

In Jesus mighty name, AMEN!!!

Anonymous said...


Green Cards for All! said...

That's the spirit!

Get Stephen C. Woodruff, Mark B. Hanson, Bruce L. Jorgensen, or even Tina Sablan to file another "class action" lawsuit in federal court as soon as Kilili's proposal becomes law!

Gender discrimination. Marital status discrimination. Reproductive success discrimination. Shame, shame, shame! On American soil.

This invidious proposed law deserves at least intermediate scrutiny, if not strict scrutiny!

And at the rate Kilili's new law is likely to pass, maybe by then the suspension of Danilo T. Aguilar will have been completed, Joseph A. Arriola will have been readmitted to the bar, and perhaps Edwin Propst will have been able to gain admission to law school, graduate, and return to solve some of our problems.

More power!

Anonymous said...

A person thta marries a US National has ALWAYS been able to get a green card and eventual citizenship. With or without kids. Most have had to wait about two years for the Green Card. In the past there was also a "non-quota immigrant visa" available that I had gotten after my marriage in Okinawa, it took about thirty days.
Years later, I brought my wife back to Guam and Hawaii to live with that. Eventually she applied and obtained a Green Card.
I do not see how anybody can say that what Kilili is proposing now is discriminatory.
The only thing he is changing on the Green Card , is the minimum income requirements.
I would suggest that many check and see if this "non-quota immigrant visa" is still available and what are the requirements.
Maybe it might fit in the CNMI now that the Feds have taken over, if still available.

Anonymous said...

Cong. Sablan should at least try to include long term guest workers on his list that he intends to help, i was one of the CW who prayed for him to win the last congressional delegate election, i am not one of your constituents Mr. Congressman but i do believe that through prayers of those who believe in you, you won that election even if some people tried but failed to manipulate the votes.

Anonymous said...

to 6:44, actually marriage and parenting are two ways the separate people from one another. It would not be fair to treat someone who has actual relationship ties the same as everyone else. If I am a US citizen and my kids are born overseas they are still US citizens. The only way it would be discrimination would be to do the opposite (treat everyone the same regardless). Moot point. The USA will agree to almost anything that lets the CW's stay in the CNMI and disagree with anything that will let them go any place under US control.

Juan Dela Cruz said...

The proposal is discriminatory. If Sablan wasn't so worried about be re-elected he would introduce legislation that asked for green cards for ALL who are LEGAL and worked for five or more years in the CNMI. Who is going to object to that? No one in Congress. We are not talking about ILLEGALS. We are not talking about 1 million foreigners. It is an INSIGNIFICANT amount of 10,000 to 20,000 LEGALS! Always ask for what is the ideal, then let them give you less. Not Kilili. He asks for less.

Kilili can pretend the reason for leaving out other workers is to keep families together, but it's about keeping votes. He is more worried about locals' selfish quest to maintain pure bloodlines and keep what they perceive as theirs then in keeping families together. He figures he can sell the family idea to locals by shaming them. He doesn't care about families of one or the workers who have worked in the CNMI to keep their families back home alive. It's bs and a faulty argument at best. That's another reason why it's discriminatory. Many workers with no US children or local spouses have families that they are supporting too and they are waiting for green cards to bring them here.

The leaders sold out the islands decades ago to have cheap labor. The people loved it because they had government jobs. They still spit on the laborers every chance they get. Workers are cheated everyday and not paid the right pay. Kilili doesn't see that hurts families? Just do the right thing.

Anonymous said...

Congress does not "fear" being sued because there is no personal liability for passing an "unconstitutional" law. The worst that could happen is that the law would be struck down.

However, there is no chance whatsoever that any such law would be infirm. Over no subject does Congress have more authority than immigration, as it implicates foreign affairs and national security.

There is no absolute right to become a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) or U.S. Citizen, though USCIS must follow the rules as written -- due process. If Congress wants to show compassion to those "stateless" born in the CNMI from 1974-78 (Washington Rep. Juan N. Babauta should have lobbied for this years ago including those born up to 1986), to CNMI "Permanent Residents" since 1977-81, and to those IRs of U.S. citizens eligible for LPR (green card) status but too indigent to meet the financial thresholds, that is up to Congress.

Likewise if Congress wants to grant LPR status to those guest workers who were in the CNMI a decade or 12 years before the 8 May 2008 enactment of Public Law 110-229, that is up to them. All the marches, protests, blog comments, and argument will be for naught unless they convince Congress.

There is nothing anyone can do to stop Congress from taking such actions, not even another crazy lawsuit to rival Jorgensen's NMIRF case or unsuccessful 1999-2002 asylum lawsuits.

Anonymous said...

So what is the point of the obsolete Federally funded Ombuds office? Moral support? Hey, shut it down. Waste of US taxpayer money.

Anonymous said...

US Congressman Mr. Kilili Sablan should rethink the bills to encourage aliens to get LPR by marriage and parenting. The consequences will be the same as the FAS-type status. You can see how many marriage scams have been caused and how many kids born here but raised in original countries exactly designed by their parents. On these issues there are some immigration loopholes used by immigration opportunists. On the contrary the truly dedicated individuals have no chance to obtain what they should be given. The CNMI community consists of many families, not just Chamorro and Carolinian, but Filipino, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Indian, Bangladeshi, Thai, Nepalese, Burmese, Vietnamese etc. Every family should be considered by the US congressman who should appoint people on their merit not by favoritism. If there is no fair competition, no fundamental principle of equality, US image will be changed into local nepotism.

Anonymous said...

U.S. immigration law already permits aliens to get LPR by marriage (close to immediately) and parenting (upon the child attaining 21 years), with adequate income.

Anonymous said...

1:01 PM

Correct. But Sablan is proposing anything except waiving fees for a group that can't afford them, giving status to those with US citizen children before the children turn 21 and giving status to CNMI permanent residents. How easy to just put in a bill that would grant permanent US status (green cards) to all legal workers over 5 years.

The Saipan Blogger said...

Racism is blinding many in the Commonwealth and as a result the gun is pointing directly at their foot.

the teacher said...

Nonis 1:01 and 8:07 above

I agree with 101 that this bill doesn;t do much as IRs should have filed already unless they couldn't afford it, although I wouldn't say "close to immediatly" and "adequate" income much be the catch in the bill that is asking for free PR status; as we have alot of locals married to aliens, mostly from PI. Yes, 801, it would be easy for him to put in such a bill but it would never pass. John B who voted against the original bill.

It's not your money! said...

The Ombudsman's office is as necessary now as it was 10 years ago. The ombudsman assists victims of fraud in foreign labor contracting, human trafficking, non-payment of wages, etc. The office also is the primary source of information for foreign workers about obtaining parole, visas, etc. Just cuz the feds control immigration now doesn't mean that local employers aren't still cheating their workers. Tinian Dynasty workers are still behind in payment. Rota nurses and lots of others, too. And ask the domestic workers whether they're getting paid minimum wage, who pays for their medical and other fees, etc.

Green Cards for All? said...

This concept of "ask for the moon", and then settle for whatever you can get (perhaps a quart of green cheese) is what's wrong with negotiating in the CNMI, including among many members of the bar.

An alternative concept is to develop a reputation for fairness and honesty, and then propose a fair resolution. Or make a rational proposal that is achievable and can be unarguably presented as a win-win achievement.

The salad days of U.S. immigration are over for a while. As a result of globalization, the world is becoming more interactive and interlinked, with capital, labor, and land ownership flowing everywhere -- not just to the U.S.

The Third World "brain drain" is becoming U.S. "brain waste". In other words (if you read the linked article), foreign doctors and nurses end up working as U.S. baby sitters.

It is time to end American chauvinism and accept the fact that the best place for many or most of the CNMI's long-term guest workers is back in their countries of origin, along with their U.S.-citizen children. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of U.S.-citizen children have grown up around the world. They, the U.S., and their ancestral homelands are the better for it.

Frankly, I am disappointed when pointing out this simple reality is derided as "racist". The true racists are those who chauvinistically elevate the US above all other countries, to the detriment of people around the world, and resulting in needlessly dashed hopes and dreams in the USA.

Sure, there are jobs for some of the current guest workers in the CNMI. Perhaps 5,000 or more will find employers willing to spend the money for a CW-visa petition. But it is better for many of the others if they apply their enormous talent and energy back home. Perhaps we will hear more Chamorro spoken in the Philippine provinces, as U.S. spouses follow their IRs, becoming RP lawful permanent residents. It can be a great place to retire on an NMIRF pension, with far better health care than here.

Ask "Captain" Carl Brachear.

Wendy said...

It's not your money

Thanks for the comment. Yes, the federal ombudsman's office provides crucial services for the nonresident workers. Where can they get help when they have no pay or money for attorneys? In fact, I have been lobbying for more funding for that office (as always). They still have not hired additional attorneys to help recover the nonresident workers' unpaid wages and back pay. The majority of the foreign workers have been victims of wage theft or some kind of contract violations. In recent months I have had an increasing number of complaints from workers who have not been paid. I encourage all workers who are owed money or haven't been paid to contact the federal ombudsman's office. (phone number is on left sidebar.)

Anonymous said...

"brain waste" in the US should be recognized if these people are "brain drain" from their country, the US should give them chance to prove their "brain"... i've been working with US for 24 years and encountered lots of certified (yes certified) but still not good enough. US should revise the way they take these new immigrants! too much displaying a sense of being better than others!