More on Legal Options for CNMI Foreign Workers

October 30, 2011

Last week foreign workers heard from renowned attorney Loida Nicolas-Lewis, chair of U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance who informed the foreign workers of their constitutional and legal rights regarding their precarious immigration status. (Please see this post.)

Now attorney Ted Laguatan, also from the organization U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance, joins attorney Nicolas-Lewis in stating that foreign workers have some legal options in seeking relief after November 27, 2011. Laguatan is also a well-known and respected U.S. immigration attorney and author.

An option for those who are in ICE custody and scheduled to appear in immigration court is cancellation of removal. The cancellation depends upon circumstances such as length of years living and working in the CNMI and having U.S. citizen immediate relatives.

The Saipan Tribune reported that in a radio interview on KWAW Magic 100.3, Attorney Laguatan told listeners:
“They cannot just pick you up and put you on an airplane and send you home. That would be unconstitutional. USCIS already announced that they will not prioritize for removal non-criminal cases. You have rights before the courts. You have constitutional rights. They cannot force you to leave without a hearing before an immigration judge and in front of the immigration judge and all these defenses could be presented."
I know that thousands of foreign workers are living in fear and uncertainty as the November deadline approaches. Many have called or emailed Boboy and me to tell us their stories. Stories about selling all their land and possessions 28 years ago for the chance to live the American Dream and now having no "home" to return to. Stories about how their employers stole their wages, and because the CNMI DOL never enforced their Administrative Orders and judgments their savings accounts were drained, they were plunged deeply into debt and have no money for tickets to leave. Stories about employers who told them they were not going to petition them for CW visas just a month before the deadline.

Attorney Laguatan stated:
“The most important message I can say is for them not to leave the CNMI because the Commonwealth is now part of the American territory. The immigration law of the U.S. became applicable in Nov. 28, 2009, and so therefore all of you have constitutional rights. They cannot force you to leave American territory without a hearing before an immigration judge and all of the defenses and relief can be presented to immigration court,” said Laguatan.

Laguatan said that without a political solution, the idea is to keep and prevent jobless alien workers from being deported.

“If they know their rights and they have a good lawyer, the process will take a very long time. And that's because everybody is entitled to a hearing before an immigration judge as a matter of constitutional right,” he said, adding that it is his hope that legislation be introduced in Congress to allow to allow foreign workers in the CNMI to stay.
I would listen to the experienced and respected immigration attorneys rather than listen to politicians who are pushing their own self-serving agendas in order to preserve their power and ensure that the foreign workers remain an oppressed underclass who are denied of basic civil and human rights in the CNMI's two-tiered society.

There is presently a grave humanitarian crisis in the CNMI that must not be ignored. Some argue that we should focus on the law rather than the fact that this is a human rights tragedy. The focus must be on both. The urgent plight of the legal, long-term foreign contract workers is a humanitarian crisis and it is a matter of law. It makes elected officials and bureaucrats uncomfortable to admit that their is a human side to the problem – that it is not just an economic or political problem– so they attempt to ignore or dismiss the human rights side of this issue. People of conscience will not allow them to pretend this is a mere economic or political problem.  By standing up for their rights the foreign workers are not allowing those who hold their fate in their hands to ignore the fact that they are people, not replaceable commodities.

After months of delays and agonizing uncertainty, the CNMI's foreign workers are now on the doorstep of tomorrow, as November 27th is just a step away. If the United States of America is truly the defender of human rights then now is the time to act.

We must fight to amend laws to protect the basic human and civil rights of legal, long-term foreign workers. We must continue to fight for the introduction of legislation that will grant status to all legal, long-term foreign workers of the CNMI.

It is great news that two renowned immigration attorneys are taking a stand to support the constitutional rights of the CNMI's foreign workers. In the upcoming weeks expect to see more labor, immigration and human rights groups stepping into the spotlight to show solidarity with the CNMI legal, long-term foreign workers.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

When you say, "I would listen to the experienced and respected immigration attorneys rather than listen to politicians who are pushing their own self-serving agendas in order to preserve their power and ensure that the foreign workers remain an oppressed underclass who are denied of basic civil and human rights in the CNMI's two-tiered society." do you mean any immigration lawyer? Would you advise the guest workers to listen to Maya Kara and Bruce Mailman?

Wendy Doromal said...

1:33

Sure. If I were a foreign worker I would listen to all credible attorneys, especially ones that are familiar with PL 110-229 and US immigration law. Foreign workers may want to weigh all advice, information and facts from attorneys, federal officials and USCIS personnel so that they can make decisions that are based on the law and will suit their particular circumstances. There is no one answer since every foreign worker may have a different circumstance (a U.S. citizen immediate relative, a disabled child, a humanitarian circumstance, etc.) Most foreign workers cannot afford to hire an attorney. What these off-island immigration attorneys have done is to tell the foreign workers their due process and constitutional rights and the process. That is very helpful. What I hope we do not see is anyone trying to scam workers by making promises. Even in immigration court a judge decides and it seems to me (not an attorney) that nothing is guaranteed. That is why we need to continue to fight for status for all legal, long-term foreign workers.