House Hearing: 12,000 Legal, Long-term Nonresident Workers Thrown Under the Bus

July 14, 2011

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The hearing of the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs was not unlike most that I have attended with government bureaucrats and elected officials pushing their political agendas.  Hearings should be held to collect information to use in analyzing a problem in order to come up with the best solution, but too often they are staged to support an already agreed upon position that a member or members of the committee supports. Maybe not so much for the part of the hearing that focused on P.L. 110-229 and DHS, but definitely the discussion on H.R. 1466 was carefully orchestrated.

The most blaring observation made at this hearing (and all of the House hearings that have been held in  Washington, DC since 1999 to address issues related to CNMI immigration and nonresident worker issues) is that there was a conspicuous absence of any advocate or representative from the nonresident worker community on the witness panel. Even though the nonresidents make up an estimated 80 to 90% of the private sector workforce and a majority of the CNMI's adult population, their voice at the hearing will remain silent except for written testimony. This fact diminishes the credibility of this hearing and any other hearing where issues regarding the nonresidents are discussed and no nonresident workers are invited to testify. It suggests that members of the subcommittee regard the legal nonresident workers as labor units rather than as the essential de facto citizens that they are. It minimizes their importance and vital contributions. It marginalizes their humanity.

I am happy that at least I could attend the hearing to remind the committee members, the witnesses, and all those in attendance that the nonresident workers do have a live presence and representative at the hearing. I had to stand in the back of the room because the hearing room was packed. The governor's "volunteers", Lynn Knight, Deanne Siemer and Howard Willens were also in attendance, as was the governor's wife and press secretary.

A packed hearing W. L. Doromal ©2011
The hearing addressed two issues of importance to the de facto citizens of the CNMI:
P.L. 110-229, To authorize certain programs and activities in the Department of the Interior, the Forest Service, and the Department of Energy, to implement further the Act approving the Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in Political Union with the United States of America, to amend the Compact of Free Association Amendments Act of 2003, and for other purposes. "Consolidated Natural Resources Act."

H.R. 1466 (Sablan), To resolve the status of certain persons legally residing in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands under the immigration laws of the United States.
Speaking on behalf of the elected and government officials were panel members: CNMI Governor Fitial, Guam Governor Calvo, David Gootnik, Director of the U.S. Government Accountability Office International Affairs and Trade Office, Kelly Ryan, DHS Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Border Security, Nik Pula, the U.S. Department of the Interior's Director of the Office of Insular Affairs. (U.S. DOI Assistant Secretary of Insular Affairs Tony Babauta was in the CNMI delivering the release of the gross domestic product (GDP) estimates for 2008 and 2009 for the CNMI with other U.S. officials.) Marian Aldan-Pierce, President of the Duty-Free Shops Saipan Limited spoke on behalf of the CNMI's business community. Finally, Hazel Doctor, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen child who has nonresident worker parents spoke by video conference on behalf of U.S. citizen children with nonresident parents as a friendly witness of Congressman Sablan.

Hazel Doctor speaking by video conference, W. L. Doromal ©2011
Hazel was the most compelling witness by far. She spoke passionately about the plight of the U.S. citizen and their nonresident parents. She talked about how her parents contributed to the CNMI and how she and her younger sister may be faced with the decision of staying in their country or leaving the CNMI to stay with their family in a foreign land.  She spoke of how the CNMI was their home, how their family put down roots, and how they established lifetime friendships. 

What she did not talk about was the thousands of other equally deserving nonresident workers and their families who have contributed to the CNMI, have grown deep roots and friendships, but have been callously excluded from the bill. Congressman Sablan did not speak of them either. No one at the hearing addressed their plight.  Hazel did say that it "was immoral to separate families." I agree with her, and would add that it is immoral to separate all families, whether they have a U.S. citizen as a family member or not.

Congressman Sablan, W. L. Doromal ©2011
Congressman Sablan repeated the line that has become his mantra in defending what I consider faulty legislation –that the bill is about "keeping families together." Again, he failed to disclose at the hearing that many more families will be torn apart because they do not have a U.S. citizen spouse or child than will be helped by this bill. Should we assume that the members of Congress who sponsored or cosponsored this bill only care about families that have a U.S. citizen spouse or child? The bill only covers those nonresident workers who have a U.S. citizen spouse or child while thousands of others were thrown under the bus without even a thought or mention!

Also, never mentioned in the bill is the fact that CNMI-only status restricts travel and employment, and chains those upgraded workers to the CNMI. Legally admitted aliens in the mainland are free to travel, as many migrant farmers do when they follow the crops and seasons.

Governor Fitial watches the testimony of Hazel Doctor, W. L. Doromal ©2011
Governor Fitial said that H.R. 1466 was "a large scale amnesty bill." His comment made no sense since amnesty is granted to someone who is illegal. H.R. 1466 addresses legal aliens, albeit a very select and limited group of them. He listed problem after problem that existed in the CNMI, never admitting that the CNMI government and broken labor and immigration system created those problems.

Regarding H.R. 1466, DOI's Nikolao Pula stated that the status in the bill "was consistent with the DOI report." I find that statement extremely perplexing. Where in the CNRA or the DOI report did it separate the legal, nonresident workers into two categories: those with a U.S. citizen spouse or child who should be considered to receive an upgraded status (an unacceptable upgraded status at that) and those without a U.S. citizen spouse or child who are totally ignored and left out of consideration? Where in the DOI report was a restrictive and limited CNMI-only status ever mentioned? If we are to believe that this bill is only a "stop gap" bill to protect some families then why is the DOI report even mentioned? The DOI report was mandated to report on and make recommendations on the status of all legal, long-term nonresident workers, not some only. It is not consistent with the DOI report.

I will be writing once again to President Obama to ask exactly where his Administration stands on this bill and this issue.  If you read what our President has said about immigration reform and granting a pathway to citizenship to the undocumented aliens, then how could he not support permanent residency status for all of the legal, long-term nonresident workers of the CNMI? There are just too many conflicting  positions within the Obama Administration and with those members of Congress who are known as champions of immigration reform who co-sponsored this bill.

Congressman Gregorio Sablan emphasized that H.R. 1466 was not part of the national debate. I am fairly certain that most members of the U.S. Congress know the difference between an illegal and legal alien. The controversy in the national debate is about illegal aliens. Despite the fact that Fitial claimed that there are over 3,000 illegals in the CNMI, I have been informed that this is not true. He considers those legal aliens who have lost their jobs and remain legally in the CNMI, and those pursuing court or labor cases to be illegal.

Congressman Sablan was asked to commit to the statement that only 4,000 aliens would actually receive the upgraded status.  He confirmed that figure. That means that out of an estimated 16,000 legal, nonresident workers only 1/4 would be covered by this bill. The vast majority of the legal, long-term nonresident workers would be thrown under the bus! Since Sablan's bill excludes about four times as many legal long-term nonresidents as it includes, I am fairly certain that he works to separate the CNMI debate from the "national" debate not to distinguish between illegal and legal aliens, but to stress that the CNMI has "special circumstances," as Governor Fitial and others have stated repeatedly over the years. CNMI politicians stress that the CNMI should have "special" circumstances" so that they can get away with doing things to the legal aliens that could never be done in the states. Things like proposing a CNMI-only status. (Do you see, or want to see a Florida-only, California-only or Arizona-only status?) Things like restricting travel. Things like not granting permanent residency to legal nonresident workers who have lived and worked in the USA for 5, 10, 20, 30 or more years consecutively. Things like placing discriminatory restrictions based such as marital status and procreation in the qualifications. Things like keeping thousands of de facto citizens perpetually disenfranchised and denied of basic rights. If this bill passes that will be with the blessing of a sadly misinformed Congress that has abandoned basic American principles and ideals.

Rep. Don Young, W. L. Doromal ©2011
Congressman Don Young (R-ALASKA) asked Congressman Sablan what opposition there was to his bill. Sablan answered that he "knew of none." He certainly should have mentioned that people have communicated with him and his staff opposing the bill because of serious concerns including:
  • It is very discriminatory and exclusive because it deliberately excludes every equally deserving legal, long-term nonresident worker who is not the spouse or parent of a U.S. citizen; 
  • It creates a new CNMI-only status that is outside of the INA setting a dangerous precedent;
  • It conflicts with the intent of the CNRA, which intended to have the CNMI conform to U.S. immigration laws;
  • It chains the workers to the CNMI to continue the disenfranchised underclass that was born out of the corrupt CNMI system, which in turn will continue abuses and injustice;
  • It conflicts with the principles and ideals upon which our country was founded in that it creates a two-tiered society of haves and have nots, privileged and unprivileged, those with rights and those that are oppressed;
  • It could result in the exodus of thousands of legal workers, when they make up 80 to 90% of the private workforce and the CNMI claims to need them.
This bill must be amended.

W. L. Doromal ©2011
I have one final observation. The fact that the very Republican Congressman Don Young appeared at the hearing to semi-support the bill shows that the idea of the governor changing from Covenant to Republican Party to gain clout in Congress is seriously questionable.

I am submitting my 20-page written testimony and attachments as formal written testimony to the subcommittee  by certified mail and I will also be sending it electronically. Included with my testimony is a law journal article by Rob Misulich that argues for permanent residency and a pathway to citizen for the legal nonresidents; a statement from the United Workers Movement-NMI; and letters from the nonresident workers and their children.

Written testimony is accepted up to ten working days after the date of the hearing. It is not too late for  the nonresident workers to submit their views.

The United Workers Movement sponsored a gathering of about 50 people who watched the hearing.

Read the testimony:







27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wendy

Where are these judges from 9th U.S. Circuit Court on CNMI and how do we get this matter in front of them?... is this where this goes if we don't get a better outcome for all that will lose with 1466 ...thanks Vance

The three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a federal judge in Arizona who found that some provisions of the law were an unconstitutional intrusion into immigration and foreign policy, which are the prerogatives of the federal government.

Anonymous said...

kilili support only US citizen families because the US citizen kids ages 18 and up voted for him. He promised to put in a bill for all ocws and look what he did. help 4,000 only!

Anonymous said...

When I heard that Hazel Doctor's parents were accountants, my first thought was are they "bookkeepers" or "accountants"? Since there is no limit in H-visas, why haven't here parents (who have 20 years experience) already been petitioned by their employer. When you can hire degreed accountants for minimum wage or less, why bother training someone to do the books.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for attending and the report. I'm one of those left out. 28 years in Saipan for what?

Anonymous said...

I regret having to admit that I share Fitial's views, but this bill sucks big time.

the seeker of truth said...

So are we now to support the position of Fitial and Schemer and oppose Kilili's bill? Politics make strange bed fellows. Doctor's testimony was gutless, some advocate she turned out to be...help her parents and screw the rest.

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 10:54

I do not support Siemer, Fitial or on this particular issue, Kilili. Of course, I support the rights of ALL of the foreign workers, not a select few. I support justice for ALL of the long-term foreign workers and my loyalty and concern is only with them. Politicians are, well politicians. There are few statesmen in America today. We sure could use some now, not just for this issue, but for many critical issues that partisan politicians are screwing up to ensure their re-elections. It makes me literally sick.

Hazel is not gutless, nor is she an advocate for the foreign workers. She is a young person. She spoke beautifully from her heart about her own situation and that of her parents and of those in a similar situation. (Those families that have a U.S. citizen member.) While, I would have hoped that she would have repeated some of what she said at the CODDEL meeting -speaking for green cards and a path to U.S. citizenship for ALL of the long-term foreign workers, she focused only on this bill, as I am sure she was requested to do. Kilili said today at the hearing that her family and his are close. It would not have served his agenda if she spoke about the critical plight of ALL of the legal, long-term nonresident workers, would it?

Wendy Doromal said...

Vance -9:31

I think that you are talking about the CNMI's labor and immigration bill which contains many of the unconstitutional provisions that the Arizona bill did? The USDOJ would have to do something to stop that. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening.

Anonymous said...

It seems that the only people outside of the CNMI looking out for the CNMI interests is...the Federal Government. There are two possible extreme outcomes. One, everyone gets green cards and moves to the States, thus gutting the CNMI of workers. There are not enough locals people to do all the jobs that need to be done. And with the way you describe the working conditions here why would any of them stay. Number two: They all get deported. Again, this is not good for the CNMI or the workers as you have the same end result. So what to do. A radical idea might be to just let them stay in the CNMI, just like they agreed to when they came, and work, just like they have been. Another radical idea might be to let the US citizen children petition for the parents to get green cards. Oh, wait, we do that now.
I do think that travel restriction to and from the CNMI need to be relaxed. I agree that the Congress will need to add certain statuses for this area, but they have the ability to do that. They don't need to "reinvent the immigration wheel" to accomodate the CNMI workers. More realistically, I don't think they will.

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 11:59

Since the nonresident workers, the de facto citizens, are PEOPLE, the correct action would be to issue them permanent residency and allow them to stay or leave. Many have stated that the CNMI is their home and they will stay. Those who were cheated and treated poorly (and there are many) may want to go. Consider that many do not have the resources to leave. PEOPLE should have liberty, and freedom to make choices. When PEOPLE are concerned decisions cannot always be made by what is perceived to be good for a PLACE.

Maybe the opinionated people should put themselves in the position of the nonresident workers and consider if they would want to be chained to an island, or if they would want to be part of an underclass. Would they want to be denied the rights that other community members have? For instance a 50 years old who has lived and worked in the CNMI for 30 years cannot vote, while an 18 year old who was born in the CNMI can vote, and a person over 18 who moves to the CNMI can vote after a few months can. How does that reflect American values? Should our country impose legal restrictions to a group of people that mimics many not imposed since the times of slavery? Do we want our country to step backwards? If this bill passes as it stands it is dangerous. We should be talking about PEOPLE first and the economy and all the rest second.

Anonymous said...

Let's all go home and give them what they want and suffer. Do we suffer? I don't think so, I am certain period

Anonymous said...

Kilili should stop saying he made the bill for families! Its a big lie! He made this bill to get votes from US citizen kids telling them he's gonna get status for there parents if they vote for him. Only families with VOTES. No families with no votes.12,000 no voters, not included.12,000 people with families not included.

Anonymous said...

Congressman Sablan won't talk about the people he left out for a couple reasons. He don't give a dam about them. He wants to help people that give him votes like said. He wants to pretend he's a hero. He's no hero.

Anonymous said...

What about his Filipina wife? Does she think its ok to ditch the majority of the Filipinos? Some are here longer than the one with US citizen children. May be aliens should know to get hooked up or knocked up to stay in the USA. Is that the law?

Anonymous said...

If Kilili's ridiculous bill is really passed, what is the purpose of US Congress? How will most of long-term nonresident workers continue to work in CNMI? Go home or remain humiliated? US Congress doesn't know what has happened here,or really try to drive nonresident workers out, or just make a stop gap? Who knows?

Anonymous said...

Can we find someone with a heart to put in a bill for the rest of us? How did this happen? What about us?What about our children?

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 8:56

I suggest writing to those members of Congress who are known as immigration champions to tell them the entire story and how many nonresidents are excluded. (Many with large families that are not being protected.) Incredibly, some are actually cosponsors of this bill! Can they amend this bill? Of course they can!

Anonymous said...

Since when does the United States declare that the only important families are those with U.S. citizens? Holy cow! Must be the American family values we always hear about.

Anonymous said...

The way I read the DHS statement on the upcoming Regs. It seems that DHS has already made up it's mind that there will be no "green Cards" or Us Cit.
They have stated that it will be an NMI only status.(MV article)

As far as "Kilili" bill, it seems like he is trying to keep the families that are married to US Cit. intact as many cannot qualify because of the wage requirements nor have the money to apply for a "Green Card" These families run the risk of the wife/mother being sent back to their homeland as there is no "IR" status under the US Immigration.

It also seems that this bill is a stop gap to keep the US Children and the alien parents from being separated until a permanent status comes out.
But under the Immigration laws, the courts have much leeway and flexibility given to the Judge to stop the removal in these type of instances in regards to "illegals"

In the instances of employers getting "green Cards" for their workers.
In Guam, I have talked to many and the employers that have gone this route on occasion have stated that they would not do this again because after having the employees promise and even sign a written statement that they would not leave the employ for at least a certain amount of years, almost all did leave within the first year.
I know of one in particular employer who had sponsored 11 workers, the first to go was his top echelon like the Engineers and project estimators, the equipment operator left later on as they found jobs or relatives and friends in the US.

It is clear that Fitial and the rest are only scared that if given US Cit. that these CW will vote these incompetents out and the NMI might become productive again.
The elected and business are also scared of losing the "cheap labor"
It will only be a matter of time before these clowns will be losing power as a great number of the CW children are becoming of age now.

For the US children of legal age to apply for their parents, the process, last I heard, took about four years. (maybe might be faster given that the parents are legal and here already)

So now what is the solution? Should the workers without children go home?
Should ALL of the workers stay and continue to work for small wages and put up with the abuses and not get paid etc?

Many places in the Middle East and others are sending CW workers home and putting their own people in the workforce as they have seen the problems caused by workers outnumbering their own people.
Saudi Arabia alone is sending back over 100,000 workers to be replaced by their own and will be replacing the foreign house workers as well.

The Phil. Govt.is making loans available to the returning workers in the amount up to $7000 (with 7.5% interest) to enable them to start business or something. They are also creating more jobs.
Maybe the NMI workers would be able to avail of this program also.

If they all leave let these elected and private sector worry about getting workers and putting the local people to work for small wages.

Anonymous said...

We should leave with what dignity we have left. I would rather die proud than stay alive like a slave to haters in NMI.

Anonymous said...

I on one hand would really like to see the CW get Cit. so they can vote.
I would love to see these incompetent has beens, be voted out, specifically the ones that have been instrumental in causing this problem, they will all be squirming and kissing the hands of these CW that they have, for so many years looked down on and cheated.
Same goes with the private sector that have screwed many of these people.
The minimum wage will be raised and maybe the this will improve the workforce.(if anybody stays)

On the other hand I would also like to see all of the workers to go home and let the NMI figure out what to do as many have stated that the local workforce can handle all of the jobs. (the problem that was created with CUC comes to mind after they had disallowed the CW workers, and even now)

Next year though there will also be much less jobs as many of these companies will have to leave as they are border line illegal (or actually illegal)

I am waiting to see what the required wage will be for new workers to be brought in to the NMI and under what type of "visa", this may put a new angle on this whole picture.

In the meantime, I hope that the CW children stay and start to vote these crooks out of office. There are so many of us locals leaving so the indigenous are getting less and less which is causing a big loss in the voting pool making it harder for these old elected to stay in office.

Anonymous said...

anon above,

I can see your point and I agree with you.

Anonymous said...

I hope that there is such a thing as karma.

Anonymous said...

Yes there's karma, once we all leave here they think they can get all the jobs that we vacated? If I am the owner I rather move my business somewhere else than hiring unskilled or eventhough they will learned someday, who's gonna patronize there products? no more all are gone!!! more supply with a few demand will never prosper!!!

Anonymous said...

Wrong Wendy. The Philippine Government threw these people and many more under the bus. A country that exports millions people as cheap service tools should be your focus. You wrongly blame the United States.

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 7:14

The Philippines, like many third world countries, depends on human exports. (Read the editorial I wrote for World Bank magazine here.) I am not talking about what happened in the country of origin, I am talking about how MY country, the USA, treats the alien workers. Unfortunately, especially in the CNMI, the record is abysmal. The fact that thousands of legal aliens have been and continue to be victims of wage theft and their criminal employers were not and are not prosecuted makes me sick. The fact that the vast majority never see the wages that were stolen is not acceptable. The fact that so many innocent girls and women were and continue to be victims of human trafficking makes me ashamed. The fact that the USA views alien workers as labor units rather than as human beings is extremely disturbing. My focus is justice and in this case justice for the legal, long-term nonresident workers in the CNMI. They need and deserve permanent residency ––not some apartheid-type status for a select few, but permanent residency for all of the legal, longterm alien workers.

Anonymous said...

I see Kilili teamed up with Abramoff buddy Rep. Don Young! This shows how bad the bill really is!