Reflections on Hearing: Nonresident Workers Oppose H.R. 1466

July 17, 2011

We must want for others, not ourselves alone. –Eleanor Roosevelt

They could have been sitting at home content with the thought that they and their families would receive updated status if H.R. 1466 passes, but the leaders of the United Workers Movement-NMI sponsored a meeting in Garapan as an opportunity for nonresident workers to gather together to watch the House hearing.  The leaders and group oppose H.R. 1466 because if fails to address the plight of 12,000 legal nonresident workers, focusing only on those that have a U.S. citizen family member. They support amending the bill to include all legal, long-term nonresident workers who have dedicated years and even decades of their lives to work in the CNMI.

The UWM has always stood fast in support for permanent residency and a pathway to citizenship for the legal, long-term nonresident workers. They stand united in that view today, willing to sacrifice their own security to fight for the security for ALL of nonresident workers.  Their actions say a great deal about their characters and about the bill. If even the nonresident workers who would be positively affected if the bill passes oppose it, then members of Congress and the Administration need to take a hard look at its flaws and properly amend it to reflect the democratic principles upon which our nation was founded.

Thanks to indigenous nativist opposition and weak members of the U.S. Congress, the only mention of status in P.L. 110-229 (the CNRA) is a provision that mandated the Secretary of the Interior to report to the U.S. Congress by May 2010 on the status of the nonresident workers, including “recommendations to the Congress related to granting alien workers lawfully present in the Commonwealth on the date of the enactment of such Act United States citizenship or some other permanent legal status.” The mandated DOI report was issued in April 2010. Among the recommendations was this statement:
Consistent with the goals of comprehensive immigration reform, we recommend that the Congress consider permitting alien workers who have lawfully resided in the CNMI for a minimum period of five years to apply for long-term status under the immigration and nationality laws of the United States.
No where in the report or recommendation did the DOI suggest that status should be upgraded or addressed only for families with a U.S. citizen spouse or child. No where does it suggest restricting travel or denying basic human rights. Since the report was issued the only action that the U.S. Congress has taken concerning the recommendation has been H.R. 1466. It stands as a discriminatory, undemocratic response. It needs to be amended.

"It is not possible to be in favor of justice for some people and not be in favor of justice for all people." -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


It was chilling that no one who spoke at the hearing even mentioned the plight of the 12,000 legal, nonresident workers who are excluded from this bill because they have no U.S. citizen family member. They too have families that will be torn apart; they too are faced with adversity. They have been dedicated and loyal contributors to the CNMI also. It must be because the CNMI government and these members of the U.S. Congress regard the nonresident workers primarily as labor units rather than as people. It is extremely upsetting that a member of Congress can argue passionately about keeping families together, but only certain families –those with a U.S. citizen spouse or child. Is that any less discriminatory than the racist remarks made by Governor Fitial and Susana Deleon Guerrero? To leave the other families completely out of the discussion and bill was wrong. To say that there was no known opposition to the bill was wrong.

"Never under any condition should this nation look at an immigrant as primarily a labor unit. He should always be looked at primarily as a future citizen." -Theodore Roosevelt, 1917


The nonresident workers, the de facto citizens, are people, but at the hearing the majority of the discussion focused on them as instruments that are essential to pump up the economy, and as labor units needed for their talent and skills. Where people are concerned, decisions cannot be made based on what is perceived to be good for a place. Yet listen to the debate and you will see that it centered on "what is good for the CNMI." It was stunning.

"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


When I was at the hearing I kept thinking that somewhere on these same grounds similar debates were held 150 years ago ––debates where people were discussed as if they were merely tools and instruments to boost an economy; debates about people being chained to a place with travel restrictions; debates about people being stripped of liberty and freedoms, debates about people being denied basic social, political and economic rights; debates about people needed to serve the privileged class of the two-tiered society. How was this hearing much different than the debates about slavery? How has it happened that our nation has stepped so far back in time? I wonder if those supporters of the bill would like to find themselves in the position that they propose for others with the restricted travel and denial of social and political rights.

"The horror of class stratification, racism, and prejudice is that some people begin to believe that the security of their families and communities depends on the oppression of others, that for some to have good lives there must be others whose lives are truncated and brutal." –Dorothy Allison

Our focus now must be on educating members of Congress as to the flaws of this bill and the untruth that it is intended to "keep families" together. That statement is a lie unless it is completed to say, "The bill will keep certain families together – only those that have a United States citizen family member." The bill's author and co-sponsors must be honest and state that 12,000 equally deserving legal nonresidents with families lacking a U.S. citizen family member are left outside of this legislation to fend for themselves. Our focus will be to hold accountable those members of Congress who are noted advocates for immigration reform, but supported this flawed legislation. How can they advocate for millions of undocumented aliens to be granted a pathway to citizenship and turn their backs on 12,000 legal long-term de facto citizens? How can they support that 4,000 that they do provide for in the legislation be granted an inferior un-American status? Is it hypocrisy or ignorance? We will soon find out!

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

All politicians have one thing in mind and that's getting votes. Kilili sucked up to nonresidents to get votes from their US family and tossed the others over the cliff. What a guy. Not!

It'll be up to those left out to fight for status and to educate the supporters like you said. The bill's supporters who are saying they support immigrants stand to lose votes if their backers know they support this. Ignorance? Yes. Hypocrisy? Most certainly. I'm in! I'll write to them too.

Anonymous said...

I think the issue here is, this is a good starting point as interior Babauta said. At least those who have families with US kids will be covered here is not this one of the groups you are fighting for? Now that they are covered aren't we glad that one group is already on the move.

Other groups may be the next we just don't know.

Sometimes we have to take one step at a time until we reach the goal especially with the situation now.

I still remember before, we have been fighting for these group of people too interviewing them and asking their concerns. Aren't we glad that their status will be changed into a better status.

Sometimes in life we have to eat the crumbs as our stepping stones to be able to eat the full menu of rights.

Anonymous said...

Juan Babauta now works for Fitial. His Administration was fully against Federalization of the CNMI's Immigration. Good luck now.

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 3:04

What does Juan Babauta have to do with this? What does Fitial have to do with this? It is up to the members of the U.S. Congress to decide. Let those members search their consciences and hearts.

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 1:44

I respectfully and strongly disagree with your train of thought because:

I believe that all equally deserving long-term alien workers should be included NOW in ONE bill. Not some now and some later. Why not all now? What reason? Would you have supported the bill if the members of Congress decided to grant status only to those with NO U.S. citizen family member and to exclude every family with a U.S. citizen spouse or child because someday they would qualify for permanent residency anyway? Probably not, right? But this is somehow okay with people. I don't get it!

The bill is discriminatory and un-American. It was argued that it would protect families. Other equally qualified and deserving families are left out. Again, the bill was promoted with the line that it was to protect families. The promoters did not say SOME families!

Is it just and moral that having a U.S. child or spouse should elevate someone to an upgraded status (albeit terrible status) even over a people who may have worked in the CNMI for a longer period of time, and may have a family without a U.S. child or spouse that will also suffer if not protected? Please justify that, because I don't get that argument.

There is absolutely no reason not to include ALL of the legal, nonresident workers now in this bill. We have heard the line, "this is a start" before. What it means is there could be no other bill for ages, if ever. What it means is that there could be no finish. Not one of the authors or sponsors ever suggested that this was a "start." I believe this is it and the exclusion was politically motivated and intentional.

How is it okay that Congressman Sablan passionately pleads for SOME families like it would be terrible if they had to leave, but not for others? It's obvious he left them out because it would not serve his re-election goals. Especially considering that those with a U.S. citizen child and spouse can already or in the future apply for U.S. status! If people are okay that 12,000 dedicated equally deserving legal, longterm workers get fed to the wolves, then let them deal with their conscience and reasons. I cannot justify their reasoning or even remotely understand it.

I will fight to have this bill amended while all the others who think it's good because it covers them or covers "some" can sit and do nothing. I do not believe that some families are more important than others, some people are more important than others, and that there will ever be justice for the excluded ones. We all know if the others are left out then the vast majority will end up deported or in a terribly insecure position. They most likely won't be around for any next step.

Sometimes baby steps are dangerous -they can take a person over a cliff.

You said, "Sometimes in life we have to eat the crumbs as our stepping stones to be able to eat the full menu of rights." That is offensive for many reasons. Rights are not to be given to some outright and to others in steps. Rights should be dispersed equally to all. Sometimes the crumbs are not enough to sustain a person, and not being feed properly will result in death. Perhaps you are among those lucky enough to have a seat at the table...

Anonymous said...

All the oppressed people should stand up to fight for justice, to encourage US lawmakers to amend the bill for all long-term workers in CNMI.

Anonymous said...

The bill sucks. Stop making excuses.

Anonymous said...

Dekada members were watching the hearing at Kilili's office.These are the group that took my $100 to get a green card. Give me my money back thiefs!

Anonymous said...

You know the bill is bad if the CNMI Senate and House like it. Good God! It does so little for so few, who in their right mind would put their name on this?

Anonymous said...

Wendy said:
"Rights are not to be given to some outright and to others in steps. Rights should be dispersed equally to all. Sometimes the crumbs are not enough to sustain a person, and not being feed properly will result in death. Perhaps you are among those lucky enough to have a seat at the table..."
Yes, I am one of the lucky ones that has a seat at the table. I am glad you recognize that their is, in fact, a table.
What do you say to an American Citizen that does not get a job because one of these workers was willing to do the work cheaper? This is one of the biggest problems with our economy as our industrial base (yes, garment factories) and being sent overseas to people that will do the cost for less. Although there are plenty of people to blame, the CNMI ecomony is a victim of this. You mentioned how "Un-American" it was not give these folks green cards. I would say the "UnAmerican thing to do would be to let low skilled workers flood into the US to take jobs away from citizens.
I realize these workers are not the same as illegal aliens, but you have to admit their goal is the same. To go, or stay, in the US legally. This is why the Sablan bill is more popular because it deals with, hello, people that have American ties, not CNMI ties. Remember, the Feds took over immigration a couple of years ago. They "inherited" the mess, they did not create it.
The way this will end, and I think we all know it, is that people will be allowed to stay, but not allowed to go the US unless they qualify like other people do.
From the workers point of view it is unfortunate that this came up when it did. Obama can't have headlines before the election, with the unemployment rate of over 9%, that say "Obama signs into law bill that would let 12K un-skilled foreign workers from the CNMI to come to work in the USA" Yeah, Fox News goes "Casey Anthony" on that one.

Green Cards for All! said...

"De facto citizens"?

Sometimes laughter is indeed the best medicine.

What about the new federalized CW-visa holders under the forthcoming regulations? Will their fecundity inspire the same largesse?

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 2:47

You take unfounded and incorrect talking points from hate radio types and try to apply it here. It won't work. These are skilled workers, not unskilled. They are long-term, legal contributing members of the community, Some have lived longer in the CNMI than in their homelands; some have lived longer in the CNMI than the people that they serve. These are legal aliens that should not be chained to an island because the place (the place where they were victims of routine wage theft and other abuses) needs them. They should be given a status that exists under the INA, permanent residency status, and they should be free to live anywhere on U.S. soil that they want. Otherwise they will continue to be abused, otherwise the CNMI residents will continue to treat them as a replaceable underclass that remains disenfranchised and vulnerable. The vast majority of people and 99% of Democrats, those who vote for Obama, would welcome these 16,000 people outright to the American family. If the CNMI officials who want to cling to their corrupt system and the racist residents like Susana deLeon Guerrero are so worried about them voting and having basic human rights, then let the CNMI sanction their green cards, pay them back all the wages that the government allowed the criminal employers to steal from them, and let them make the choice as to where they will stay on U.S. soil. No matter how you try to justify not giving them permanent residency, it is wrong and will be a scar on the face of America always.

Who cares what FOX News reports? Does anyone still watch that? What do you even know about Casey Anthony? I live exactly 6 miles between her former residence and the court house. More media whores cashing in. The media has always and continues to ignore the CNMI. They could care less, and unlike the Casey Anthony case they could not put a sexy twist on 16,000 LEGAL aliens FINALLY getting the status that they deserve. People would be cheering, not booing and that isn't a story fit for Fox news.

Wendy Doromal said...

Green cards:

Yes, de facto:

Defined
De facto (English pronunciation: /diː ˈfæktoʊ/, /deɪ/[1]) is a Latin expression that means "by [the] fact." In law, it often means "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but not officially established."

or

From Legal DIctionary
de facto adj. Latin for "in fact." Often used in place of "actual" to show that the court will treat as a fact authority being exercised or an entity acting as if it had authority, even though the legal requirements have not been met.

Fecundity? Are you referring to their creative thinking or their ability to reproduce children? Since you're often such a smug and anti-worker commenter when you post here, I am going to guess that you're talking about being rewarded for having children. Obviously Congressman Sablan considers having a U.S. citizen child (of a certain age only) a qualification for obtaining status. Why would the CW visa rule have anything to do with procreation?

Anonymous said...

Number wise, if anybody know them;
Just how many CW are married to US Cit?
How many are married to each other in the NMI?
How many are single with a partner and no children?
How many are living with another partner and have kids in the NMI while married to different partners in their homeland?

Of the ones that are married elsewhere and have children on both sides, what will happen if they are given US status?
If given status they will be allowed to bring their families with them to US or NMI.
Then what will happen?
Will they run from their NMI children and partners?
Will they just leave their legal partners in their homeland and stay with the NMI "family"?

This status question has a lot of ramifications and why would the Feds give a blanket "US status to many with two families?(one here and one there)
This would cause much problems and maybe have legal ramifications.
I think that "Kilili" bill is a stop gap until the real Regs come out.
When the Regs are out that in itself will be another "start". For what we don't know yet. But some accounts reads like that will only be a NMI status for starters.
The NMI only status I think will only cause more of the same labor abuse and low wages though..

Anonymous said...

how does it work with the guys who have two families, one local wife and one filipina wife..?

I would have preferred status for those working here more than 12 years, because that shows vestment.

Anonymous said...

Green Cards seemed to be alluding to children born of legal contract workers after 8 May 2008.

Are those U.S. citizen children any less deserving? Why discriminate against them?!

Smugness is in the eye of the beholder.

Anonymous said...

11:20 I am assuming that you mean "green Cards" for the "parents" of children born in the NMI after 8 May, 2011 as the children are automatically US Cit. once the parents apply for a Passport.
If this is true, that you are saying this, then,
No place in the US (or any other Nation) are parent(s) of children born in that nation automatically given Citizenship to the country of the children's birth.
What you are also saying, is that for all to go make babies so they can be an automatic US Cit.
That is not logical nor realistic and would not ever happen fr anyone anywhere.

Anonymous said...

noni 6:08 The problem is if the persons get a "Green Card" then one of them,abandons their NMI family and runs away to the US so he can bring his original family from the homeland to the US. The NMI will be left to take care of the family left behind. Plus at least one of them could be prosecuted for Bigamy. (if legally married in the NMI)

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 11:20

Upgraded status should be based on the number of consecutive years that an alien worker has worked in the U.S, and other qualifications such as passing a background check. Whether a person has married a U.S. citizen or whether a person has a U.S. citizen child should not be a determining factor. I support 5 or more years because that is consistent with the INA . Under H.R. 1466 yes, those who worked 5 or more years and did not have a U.S. citizen child until after May 2008 will be left out. Again it is untrue to claim that the bill was proposed to "keep families together!"

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 6:08 and 6:14

Assuming that there are men in the CNMI with two wives then the man would be a bigamist (if the first wife was a legal wife and not a common-law wife and they were never divorced), and the 2nd wife should have her head examined for marrying the guy with another family. The first marriage is the one that would be considered to be the legal marriage. Bigamy is seldom prosecuted, but could it prevent a man from getting upgraded status because a background check revealed the crime? Maybe.

Regardless, no one under H.R. 1466 who is granted the un-American CNMI-only status can flee to the U.S. alone, or with anyone else. The status chains the workers to the CNMI and restricts travel.

Does the CNMI government care for families? Really? I thought the only social programs in the CNMI were federally funded.

Anonymous said...

7:28 There are many CW I know from the Phil. with families there, that have married a locall and also others with another CW from their homeland, at the Mayors office. They have gotten the necessary clearance from the Phil. with forged papers.(both male and female)
I also know of other nationalities that have married and also have spouse and family in their homeland.
In most of the cases that I know of the, spouse in the NMI does not know about a family elsewhere.
I know this as many of these people were my workers and I also know the families in the homeland as I have visited them.(still)
I have also had to field calls from the spouse as to why they haven't heard from the other for a long time or why they have not been sending the money on time or less money..

As far as someone "fleeing to the US mainland", this is in the instance that a US status is indiscriminately granted to all.

And you are correct that all the social programs are Fed funded but any abandonment of a family with children would also put another burden on the NMI people as many of us would and have helped out the alien spouse and kids that were left behind.
This has happened in some cases of a person being granted US Citizenship and then runs away from their spouse. In a couple of cases that I am personally aware of, the mother even left the children behind with the father.
Many of us helped with the kids and other things such as clothes etc. so the now single parent could work.

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 9:48

Thanks for the clarifying comment. Under the INA all nonresident workers married to a U.S. citizen spouse can apply for green cards.

Anonymous said...

There are many different areas that the Feds and local government have to address when it comes to the CW's. The two main ones are 1) How will improved status for the workers affect the CNMI economy, and 2)How will it affect the US economy. Note that I leave out how it will affect the workers. That does not need to addressed as the answer is clear. It affects them postively.
Now, if the workers are granted status and they all move away (why wouldn't they, they are so mistreated and all) and move to the land of milk and honey what would the CNMI look like. Now activitsts don't really care about this as their goal was to help the CW's, not the terrible, racist, people of the NMI, so if the islands sink in the sea so be it. However, the Feds, well, they have another mandate. They have to take care of the CNMI. They have to clean up the mess. Less mess, less clean-up.
So activists hope the logic in Washington goes like this: "Hey, let's give all these people green cards and let them move here. We need more maids in the hotels and more people to shovel dirt. Don't worry about our on 9% unemployment rate. After that, we can rebuild the CNMI the right way. Probably only cost half a billion or so. Oh, don't worry about that silly deficit thing. I am sure the American Taxpayers would love to pick up the tab for a place most don't even know exists. After all, isn't it the American Way to give people green cards just for being in the same place for a long time. Sure it is". Sure it is.

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 1:00

The alien workers are PEOPLE, not labor units. They have already more than served the CNMI, its people and its economy. They deserve permanent residency and the FREEDOM and LIBERTY to decide where they want to live. They deserve social, political and economic RIGHTS. If the CNMI cared about its economy then the leaders would stop the nonsense get-rich-fast plans that use foreign workers to fuel them. They would clean up the island of Saipan (rid it of dead dogs, call girls on corners, vacant dirty lots and buildings) and push tourism to boost the economy.

Where the CWs (PEOPLE) are concerned the main concern is THEM, not the CNMI or U.S. economies. It is not their duty to keep foreign economies pumping. They already paid their dues and more -most are owed thousands in back pay too.

You said, So activists hope the logic in Washington goes like this: "Hey, let's give all these people green cards and let them move here. We need more maids in the hotels and more people to shovel dirt. Don't worry about our on 9% unemployment rate. After that, we can rebuild the CNMI the right way. Probably only cost half a billion or so. Oh, don't worry about that silly deficit thing. I am sure the American Taxpayers would love to pick up the tab for a place most don't even know exists. After all, isn't it the American Way to give people green cards just for being in the same place for a long time. Sure it is". Sure it is.

Show me even one "activist" who supports the idiotic lines that you put forth here. I for one am one of the federal taxpayers that resent seeing my tax dollars go down the toilet in the CNMI. I would like to see the residents of the CNMI start paying a share of federal taxes and i would like to see less going to the CNMI until the leaders can prove that the corruption and waste of our tax dollars has been resolved.

The foreign workers would be able to get jobs easily in the U.S. if there were none available for them in the CNMI. They are hard workers and would take multiple jobs to make ends meet. They would take jobs that the snobby, educated Americans shun. They would open their own businesses in the CNMI and the U.S. to build the economies.

Anonymous said...

Wendy said: "When I was at the hearing I kept thinking that somewhere on these same grounds similar debates were held 150 years ago ––debates where people were discussed as if they were merely tools and instruments to boost an economy; debates about people being chained to a place with travel restrictions; debates about people being stripped of liberty and freedoms, debates about people being denied basic social, political and economic rights; debates about people needed to serve the privileged class of the two-tiered society. How was this hearing much different than the debates about slavery? How has it happened that our nation has stepped so far back in time? I wonder if those supporters of the bill would like to find themselves in the position that they propose for others with the restricted travel and denial of social and political rights."

That's so true and it gave me chills. This is what you must emphasize. It's startling. Shame on every person who set their pen to sign on to this sick bill.

You've stuck to your stand from the beginning always ignoring the naysayers and negative criticism. While others change with the tide, we know you'll stand firm to defend the workers and stand up for their rights. After all these years I can only conclude you're the real thing. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Just to share some facts, related to what Mam Wendy stated above.

My husband, an American wouldn't take a full time job. "Why", I asked. His answers:
1. Because at $7.25 - $8.25 rate, I will have to work my ___ of then I will lose the benefits from the government. Leave those work to the "Mexican".
2. Secondly, the government will raise the child support that I'm paying my ex. If you do your math, then you will find out that it will be to my advantage not to work full time.

Anonymous said...

Wendy, your main fall back to all the reasons the CW's WILL get green cards is 1) They have worked and lived in the CNMI for a long time and been mistreated by the CNMI, 2) The fairness and good nature of America (your language is a bit more flowery).
In my mind, these two are actually related. What immigration policy of the last 20 years would have you feel that the US has a positive attitude towards non-citizens? Forget legal in the CNMI. When has the US favored any group over US citizens? More specifically, in the last 20 years what groups of people have bypassed the normal green card process?
I think the trend in the US has been for more immigration reform. This will probably be a good thing for the workers, but it is probably at least 10 years away. I would agree that any CW that is here 10 years from now, give them a green card. The reality is splashed on the TV and Newspapers every day, and it seems the day of the CW's is a long, long, way off.

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 11:22

You said, "What immigration policy of the last 20 years would have you feel that the US has a positive attitude towards non-citizens? Forget legal in the CNMI. When has the US favored any group over US citizens? More specifically, in the last 20 years what groups of people have bypassed the normal green card process?"

I can think of several instances, when the green card process was passed, but most are not recent events. The Virgin Islands Nonimmigrant Adjustment Act of 1981; the Chamorros and Carolinians of the Northern Marianas were given outright U.S. citizenship in 1986, Cubans admitted under the Cuban Refugee Act, and the Soviet Scientist Act of 1992. I also believe Haitian refugees have been given special consideration.

Ten more years? I would certainly leave if I was in the CNMI working for 5, 10, 20, 30 or more years and was told 10 more! Enough is enough. They have more than served their time, more than sacrificed, more than proved themselves. The time for the legal, nonresident workers to be granted permanent residency is long overdue.

Anonymous said...

But they were never told they would get status. They came here with express official statements that there would be NO status. That was the deal they made, and they should abide by it, just as American political minorities can put up with it, or move elsewhere.

Their lack of political rights is really little different from that of conservatives in San Francisco or progressives in Orange County, CA. They are disenfranchised, too.

They can either grin and bear it, or move back to their homeland.

Ten years from now would be more than generous, an act of grace and largess by the feds, by no means an entitlement.

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 3:42

Please look up the word disenfranchised!

The slaves were never promised that they would be free either. American and democratic principles dictate that the de facto citizens of the CNMI should be given permanent residency.

What's with the illogical "ten years from now" line? Some of these people have lived in the CNMI longer than some 18-year-olds who can vote there. Some of these people have worked there longer than some residents who have worked there for 30 years. Some of these people have no homeland. Five years is the standard time limit under the INA, not 10. Ten is excessive.