May 5, 2011
|United Workers Movement Rally for Green Cards Photo by Itos Felicano ©2011|
It was interesting to read Congressman Sablan's remark in the Marianas Variety today, which responded to a previous story stating that DEKADA members and their U.S. citizen children met with the Congressman. He said:
The report, “Sagana: US Citizen Children Met With Sablan,” in your May 4, 2011 issue implies that Mr. Boni Sagana met with me or had a hand in arranging meetings with me.The article that Congressman Sablan was referring to was written by author Junhan Todeno and was published in the Marianas Variety on May 4, 2011. It stated in part:
I would like to clarify that after review of my office records I can find no verification of this claim.
Member of U.S. Congress
Boni Sagana, Dekada Movement president, said he helped organize children of guest workers who are U.S. citizens to ask Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan to grant their parents CNMI-only resident status.What's with the conflicting reports? Certainly Congressman Sablan would not deny such a meeting if it actually took place.
“I believe that was the result of their dialogue with Congressman Kilili,” he said, referring to the bill introduced by Sablan in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Sablan’s H.R. 1466 will grant parents of U.S. citizen children CNMI-only resident status.
The group of U.S. citizen children 12 years old and above met with Sablan, Sagana said.
“They were given an assurance that the congressman would look into the situation of their parents,” Sagana said, adding that the group was working independently and not affiliated with any guest workers group.
“We really appreciate the efforts of Congressman Sablan and we thank him for introducing that bill,” he said.
Comments attributed to Boni Sagana in the Saipan Tribune today that echo those of Rabby Syed who shares my beliefs that all legal, long-term nonresident workers, not just selected groups, should be given improved status, and that improved status has to be green cards.
But isn't the real question why would any nonresident worker want to take any kind of credit for a bill that would not provide green cards or a pathway to citizenship, but offers only an inferior second-class citizen, apartheid-type status that would keep the nonresident workers disenfranchised and voiceless? Why support legislation that leaves out equally deserving long-term, legal workers because of their marital or reproductive status? When we have the President of the United States advocating for a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens, why would any legal alien want to accept a restrictive and oppressive status?
I interpret the CNRA as a law enacted to align the CNMI with U.S. immigration laws. I believe it is unwise to provide special classification for certain territories and states and view this as a step backwards that conflicts with the intent of the law. There is no Florida-only, California-only or Arizona-only status and hopefully there will never be a CNMI-only status. It is not necessary. What is necessary is to grant an existing United States status to the workers -green cards with a pathway to citizenship or outright U.S. citizenship.
Boni Sagana was quoted by the Marianas Variety as stating that the bill "is a good beginning for the alien workers." I have heard that line before. When we were fighting to have status included in the CNRA, members of Congress and their staffers told me that removing the "grandfathering" provision that would have provides status (inferior also, but status) was "the only way" to get the bill to pass. They assured me that a "better" status with a pathway to citizenship would follow. Well, I am waiting; the nonresident workers are waiting. It appears this is the line that is used in Congress as an excuse to pass inferior legislation.
Whenever I hear someone defend the bill by saying that "it is a start" or "it is good enough" I want to ask them, "Is this a status that you would accept for yourself? Would you be fine with being a resident of a locality for 20 or more years and having no political or social rights?"
As stated in a previous post, our nation needs to advance in immigration policy, not step backwards.
(I) was born in the Northern Mariana Islands between January 1, 1974, and January 9, 1978;(II) was, on May 8, 2008, a permanent resident as that term is defined in section 4303 of Title 3 of the Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth Code in effect on May 8, 2008;(III) is the spouse or child, as defined in section 101(b)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(b)(1)), of an alien described in subclauses (I) or (II); or(IV) was, on May 8, 2008, an immediate relative, as that term is defined in section 4303 of Title 3 of the Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth Code in effect on May 8, 2008, of a United States citizen, not withstanding the age of the United States citizen, and continues to be such an immediate relative on the date of the application described under subparagraph (A).
Passing such a bill could set a dangerous precedent and could delay meaningful legislation to give the long-term, legal workers a democratic status, a uniform status based on American ideals, a status that offers full political and social rights.
As for the unstable situation of the U.S. citizen children and their parents, it should have been addressed in the CNRA along with the status of all legal nonresidents. I addressed this issue in 2007 at a meeting at Kilili Beach where hundreds of U.S. citizen children and their parents showed up to express their plea for green cards. A video of some of the children and parents is here.
In related news, I received an email from a friend saying he attended a function hosted by Congressman Sablan where the Congressman reported that President Obama was made aware of the CNMI situation during a Hispanic Caucus meeting.
The Saipan Tribune also reported that the President is aware of the plight of the foreign contract workers.
President Obama should be very aware of the situation concerning the status of the CNMI's foreign contract workers since Congressman Sablan has met with him several times and he received petitions signed by over 7,000 people imploring him to take action to support green cards and a pathway to citizenship for the legal nonresidents. The President also received numerous reports, testimonies and letters from advocates and from the nonresident workers and their children.
I am glad that members of Congress now understand that there are gaps in the CNRA that must be corrected. I think one of the best analysis of the law and its problems is the law journal written by Robert Misulich. He noted the holes in the CNRA and offered a sensible solution:
Although well intentioned, the current federalization program lacks necessary provisions to normalize the status of long-term guest workers and their families. Thousands of guest workers are the parents of U.S. citizen children who have been raised in the CNMI and know no other place. As it is, the law causes serious hardship and potentially splits families apart and harms children. It also deprives the CNMI of the workforce it needs to rebuild its economy.
As Congress enacted specific legislation to normalize the status of guest workers in the USVI, recognizing their long-term economic contributions and de-facto permanent residence, Congress should do the same for the 15,816 guest workers who have lived in the CNMI for five or more years.222 Doing so would prevent the extreme and irrational injustice of subjecting long-term legal residents and parents of one-quarter of CNMI children to deportation. Funding and provision of services concerns raised by certain local politicians are unsubstantiated and are not indicative of public opinion in the CNMI.223 To alleviate any such concerns, Congress should create a task force to determine the impact of normalization on the fiscal status of the CNMI and provide adequate compensation to meet these needs.
Federalization of immigration law in the CNMI is incomplete without a provision to normalize the status of long-term guest workers. Subjecting thousands of legal workers to deportation, through no fault of their own, is flatly unjust. Congressional action enacted from a distance of 7,800 miles must be well informed and must take into account the unique circumstances of the CNMI. With the specter of federalization of immigration law in
American Samoa, the last remaining U.S. insular area with its own immigration system, federalization in the CNMI should serve as a model rather than an example of haphazard injustice.