Fear in the Shadow of Broken Lives and Dreams

September 11, 2011

“I always thought that the U.S. is a champion for human rights around the world, except in the CNMI. Many of the foreign workers here will be sent home without getting justice from the federal government.” Rudy Francisco

With no response from Congress to the CNRA-mandated DOI report with recommendations to grant status to all of the CNMI's legal, long-term foreign resident workers, and the deadline for umbrella permits set to expire only months away, the words of Rudy Francisco couldn't ring more true.

Haidee V. Eugenio wrote a compelling article for the Saipan Tribune, Jobless foreign workers and caregivers prepare for worst. It puts a face on the issue of the plight of the CNMI's legal, long-term foreign resident workers.  It relays the stories of foreign workers who lost their jobs due to the world-wide economic turn down that hit the CNMI especially hard.

Some are foreign workers with children who don't want to leave the only home that they now have. Some professionals are unsure why their employers have not applied for H-1 visas for them.

Others are domestic helpers that are hoping that they can find a manpower agency to hire them as a domestic helper or another employer.

The newly released CW-1rule states, "While the rule does not prohibit domestic workers from obtaining CW status, for their protection and for the legitimacy of the petition process, the rule reasonably requires that domestic workers be channeled through an established, legitimate business operation." Is there even such a business in existence?

Still others, perhaps thousands, like Rudy Francisco, have been waiting for years for the back pay that was stolen from them by unscrupulous employers. In Rudy's case his former employer owes him over $25,000. I met Rudy in 2007 and was stunned when I saw the amount owed to him that was documented by an administrative order. His former employer was not prosecuted.  Imagine if a person robbed an employer of that amount. Surely, that criminal would be arrested, tried and serve time in jail. I cannot understand why the double standard is applied when an employer robs an employee. So few victims of the routine wage theft ever received justice or back pay. The U.S. Congress has the opportunity and responsibility to make every legal, long-term foreign resident worker who was a victim of abuse or wage theft while working on U.S. soil whole.

Over the last few weeks I have received mails and phone calls from foreign workers and family members of workers.  They are employed foreign workers who fear that their employers won't pay the fees for a CW-1 permit. They are newly unemployed professional workers who have no U.S. citizen children, but have foreign-born children and are despondent over H.R. 1466, which unjustly excludes them.

One person who contacted me is a young adult who went to Saipan from the Philippines when he was eight years old with his foreign worker mother and father. He completed school and college there, and is now an unemployed licensed registered nurse who cannot get hired because he has an umbrella permit. He faces deportation and separation from his family if he cannot find an employer. He will return to the Philippines, a place he has not seen in 15 years and where he has no family.  Where is the moral outrage?

We hope to bring the story of workers like those who have sent letters and emails to me, and those that Haidee documented in her articles to Washington, DC next month. Hopefully, there is a person in the U.S. Congress with a heart –someone who cannot live with himself or herself  if immediate corrective and just action is not taken to protect these legal, long-term foreign resident workers and their families.

Those who argue that a "temporary" or "stop gap" status for only a few is better than advocating for "all or nothing",  should consider how they would feel if they were among those who are purposely excluded from H.R. 1466. They may want to consider that H.R. 1466 may not be a "stop gap" bill at all, but may be the only bill to be introduced. No principled person who knows what is just and right will support something that is not.

Martin Luther King, Jr. didn't say, "Give us a couple of rights and we'll be happy to sacrifice the others that we deserve."  Desmond Tutu never said, "Toss us a crumb and we'll be satisfied." Cesar Chavez did not say, "We reached one small victory, so now we can sit down and relax." The legal, long-term foreign resident workers need to rally and speak out in unison and request that the Congress grant all legal, long-term foreign resident workers permanent residency status.


Anonymous said...

After year's of service and contributions made by the foreign worker's in the community. Their prize is they were dumped like garbage.

Anonymous said...

The fedworshippers successfully lobbied for and got what they wanted - Federal takeover of the CNMI Immigration system. A system that was flawed but was making headway with the help of on island Federal officials. Things were looking good. Then aggressive lobbying began. Stayman, Miller, Pelosi, Sablan, Hunter and Doromal fought tooth and nail to bring Federalization here. Do not complain. You were warned long before that Federal takeover did NOT mean green cards, as you and your group suggested. Pelosi , Stayman and Miller got exactly what they wanted: Revenge for successful lobbying by Republicans.

Anonymous said...

My mother in law is a contract worker housekeeper on Saipan since 1993. Her husband is in the PI, but one of her adult children (my wife) is on Saipan. America ate up the most productive 18 years of her life and now the federal takeover is going to shit her out. This is a disgrace to America. Shame, shame, shame.

Anonymous said...

I think you mean Cesar Chavez did NOT say.

Anonymous said...

In the mainland US, an employer's officers and directors can be sued personally (not just as the company) for unpaid wages if they operated the company knowing that they can't pay promised wages. I don't know if the CNMI's wacky DOL system precludes that kind of lawsuit, but with owed sums like $25K, I wonder if there's a lawyer who might want to start sniffing around...? Some of these employer firms' owners and officers do have residency and assets in the CNMI or other US jurisdictions.

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 11:51
I am not a fed worshipper. I support long overdue justice and rights for the legal, long-term foreign resident workers. I still believe that they have a better chance with the federal government in charge.

For decades the CNMI government ran a dysfunctional system that filled the pockets of the wealthy, and cheated the foreign workers. There is still a lot to be done before justice is achieved.

Did you ever read the S. 1052 submitted in 2000 by Senators Akaka, Murkowski and Bingaman? It included a status provision under the INA. It passed unanimously.

These people did not want revenge. They wanted to end labor abuses and the two-tiered society. The CNRA is flawed. As long as the foreign workers are denied political, social and economic rights there is no justice.

Anonymous said...

If Pelosi, Miller and the rest of the merry band of Liberals really cared for the poor CWs, they why aren't they pushing for immediate green cards? Why haven't any of them spoken up? Do they know that thousands will be forced to leave, possibly at gun point? I anticipate that most if not all of these "activists" will move back to the US as soon as possible. Federal investigators should start looking into any lawyers who were took money from CWs. Were they mislead or cheated out of thousands of dollars to get help with their "papers". Look into it.

Anonymous said...

20 years and I am going home. Finally, I could spend Christmas and New Year's Day with my family after being away for 20 years. For the others, from this day on, condition your mind that you need to board the plane after November 27, 2011 if you won't have employer. Thank God for giving you the opportunity to live and work on an island in the Pacific.