House Hearing: Testimony of Susana Blas de Leon Guerrero

July 14, 2011

The written testimony that Susana Blas deLeon Guererro, president of the CNMI's Women's Association, submitted to the Committee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs criticizes H.R. 1466 for all of the wrong reasons. While I disagree with the way the bill was written, it can be amended to become an effective bill which reflects our county's ideals and principles. It should be amended to include all legal, long-term nonresident workers and provide them with permanent residency status, which is a recognized U.S. status under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

The letter reflects the indigenous supremacist attitude that has permeated the CNMI with xenophobic poison. Let's look at her arguments.

She wrote:
After many written and oral testimonies submitted and recorded during the hearings, it was evident that the indigenous people of the CNMI who attended the hearings reject any improved status for thousands of aliens (including illegal immigrants) residing in the CNMI. It is not that those in opposition refuse aliens to have some status, but the people oppose being displaced in their own ancestral homeland-the only home they have ever known.
The hearings that were attended by less than 5% of the indigenous people reflected a variety of views, including testimony from indigenous people that supported permanent residency and a pathway to citizenship for the legal, long-term nonresident workers. Most of the people who attended the hearings were actually the de facto citizens of the CNMI -the nonresident workers. In fact, over 500 de facto citizens attended the Saipan hearing, while less than 50 indigenous people were in attendance

She wrote:
House Resolution 1466 introduces four types of categories that aliens can gain improved status. Furthermore, H.R. 1466 will allow also 11,000 and possibly more new U.S. citizens in the CNMI within 10 years or less. Some may state that this number is small compared to the immigrants in the U.S., but one must understand that there are currently 30,000 U.S. citizens residing in the CNMI, most of whom are Chamorro and Carolinian. Additionally, according to the U.S. Ombudsman's Office in the CNMI, there are approximately 23,000 aliens residing in the CNMI, excluding their children. Subsequently, it is arguable that there are more aliens residing in the CNMI than there are indigenous Chamorro and Carolinians. Unfortunately, many agencies over the years have failed to control the immigration of aliens into the CNMI. However, the indigenous people acknowledge the need to stop this massive increase of aliens and the possibility of displacing indigenous people of the CNMI. House Resolution 1466 is not the best solution to address the 23,000 aliens in the CNMI.
The CNMI government, with the blessing of the indigenous citizens, brought in the foreign workers to fill skilled positions and expand the CNMI economy. The government was warned as far back as the Reagan Administration of the adverse consequences. The leaders and citizens knew that they had made themselves a minority in their homeland, but they continued to bring in more workers –workers that were routinely victims of recruitment scams, labor and human rights abuses and most suffered wage theft. Theses foreign workers entered the CNMI legally and are there legally today.

All of the legal, nonresident workers deserve permanent residency and a pathway to citizenship. When were the U.S. citizens asked if we wanted the indigenous people of the CNMI to become part of the American family? Were any U.S. citizens asked their opinion on whether or not we wanted the 1.1 million people who were granted green cards last year to be granted that status? How would the indigenous people "be displaced" if permanent residency was granted to the legal, longterm nonresident workers?"These people entered the CNMI legally and have served the islands for years and decades as committed and skilled workers.  They cannot remain disenfranchised. That concept is un-American, undemocratic and inhumane.

She wrote:
According to the information provided by the CNMI Commonwealth Health Center, from calendar year 1990 to May 2011, out of 31,180 live births, 18,431 were of Filipino, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Nepalese, Bangladesh Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Burmese, and Sri Lankan descent. That is more than half and almost 60 percent of total live births during a 10-year period. This appalling number of 18,481 live births of aliens in the CNM has begun to disenfranchise the local indigenous population.
Any person who states that the birth of a child is "appalling" because the U.S. citizen child (not an alien as she incorrectly stated) has an alien parent is a serious racist, and that is putting it mildly...very mildly.

She wrote:
Based on the said numbers, H.R. 1466 will have a negative impact on the amount of social programs that will be available to the local residents. A bothersome fact for many people in the CNMI is that H.R. 1466 fails to address such devastating problem for local U.S. citizen residents.

A true story: A single mother, family of four, only receives $136 in food stamp benefits. She used to receive $250, which decreased to $196, and now at $136. This mother of four works two jobs and allows her 15-year-old son to watch over his three siblings while the mother goes to work.

One possible reason behind this decline is the additional hundreds of new qualified applicants for food stamps, including aliens with children born in the CNMI. On July 11, 2011 as published in the local newspaper, Marianas Variety, Department of Community and Cultural Affairs Secretary Melvin Faisao states, “that more than 500 people eligible for food stamp benefits were on a waiting list.there are about 9,700 residents receiving assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.” Within the past year, part of the agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, SNAP benefits decreased by 26.7 percent in food stamp benefits. Now, does House Resolution 1466 address this issue? It does not.

Why would any American citizen suggest that certain U.S. citizens deserve to benefit from a federally-funded program, while other U.S. citizens do not!? The U.S. citizen children of alien workers have exactly the same rights as the U.S. citizen children of U.S. citizen parents. I have been told that the alien parents and their U.S. citizen children have been, and continue to be victims of  discrimination at federal offices in the CNMI including the Offices of Nutrition Assistance (food stamps), Medicaid, Head Start and Social Security. Ms. de Leon Guerrero, does not pay federal taxes. She does not fund these programs. No citizen who is a resident of the CNMI pays federal taxes and no citizen in the CNMI funds these programs. The U.S. citizens in the CNMI are the recipient of federal aid that taxpayers like myself generously fund them with our tax dollars and we do not want to fund discriminatory programs!

She wrote:
Consequently, H.R. 1466 will also place the local indigenous population at a disadvantage in terms of employment and voting in local elections. Before Public Law 110-229, the CNMI immigration office mirrored laws to that of the federal immigration pertaining to sponsorship. According to the CNMI law, only those nonresident aliens who could sponsor their spouses were those who were identified as “professionals.” Any nonresident alien who were identified as “professionals” had to have earned an annual salary of over $20,000. Many aliens residing in the CNMI today make much less than $20,000.
It is not "before federalization" and CNMI immigration laws are no longer applicable. It is 2011 now and federal immigration law applies. The CNMI can no longer maintain the alien workers as an oppressed underclass. They are part of the community and well-rooted de facto citizens. They were made permanent de facto citizens by the CNMI laws that this woman cites. The CNMI cannot have it both ways. The amount a person earns is irrelevant in this situation where we are discussing de facto citizens.

One of the major intents of the CNRA was to end abuses. Disenfranchisement, travel restrictions and a CNMI-only status just changes the broken CNMI system to a broken federal system.  It fails to solve the problems. That is not acceptable. It is not 1865. People cannot claim that they must have the foreign workers for their private workforce, as long as they can keep them as sub-human members of a voiceless underclass that is denied of social, political and economic rights.

She wrote:
It is the purpose of the CNMI Women's Association to bring forth to your committee that H.R. 1466 may seem like a plausible humanitarian bill, which in actuality is the opposite and more harmful for the indigenous people. Not only will H.R. 1466 displace thousands of indigenous Chamorro and Carolinian people, it will also deprive them of full potential benefits from social programs and another small benefits provided by the CNMI government especially during our severe declining economy.

Chairman Fleming, we humbly and sincerely ask your committee to think of our indigenous Chamorro and Carolinian people of the CNMI, who have been colonized and oppressed for over 500 years, to please reject House Resolution 1466.
Colonized and oppressed for 500 years? The CNMI held a plebiscite where over 90% of the residents voted to become a part of the United States family. It is past time that the indigenous U.S. citizens of the CNMI accept that the United States does not "belong" to anyone, but to everyone who calls it their home. The indigenous citizens of the CNMI have no more rights than the U.S. citizens including the U.S. citizen children of alien workers!

Oppressed? The CNMI indigenous people are not oppressed. The nonresident workers, on the other hand, truly are! It is amazing to me that a person would put in writing such racist and xenophobic thoughts. So sad and truly shameful.

Every just and democratic nation views foreign workers as future citizens.  It is time that the U.S. Congress upheld the basic principles of democracy and liberty upon which our nation was founded and grant permanent residency and a pathway to citizenship for the legal, long-term de facto citizens of the CNMI.

More interesting comments by CNMI legislators on H.R. 1466 can be found at The Marianas Variety.


Anonymous said...

racist woman, racist organization, racist testimony!

Anonymous said...

Insanely irresponsible letter of a first grade school student.

Anonymous said...

She is an example of every reason why the alien workers should get green cards. Free them. They had enough years of racism and discrimination. Let her and her racist friends take there jobs. good luck! Wait until the committee reads this racist rant!

Anonymous said...

pathetic and pitiful. I hope the committee sees this exactly for what it is.