To the Foreign Workers of the CNMI

October 14, 2011

Photo by W. L. Doromal ©2011
“Hope is not blind optimism. It's not ignoring the enormity of the task ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It's not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it. Hope is the belief that destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by the men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.”
-Barack Obama

I want you to know my assessment of where you stand in regard to your future as foreign workers in the CNMI based on conversations, correspondence and meetings held with federal officials during the three trips I took to Washington, DC over the span of the last five months. I have returned from my latest trip and three full days of meetings in Washington, including numerous meetings with officials, staffers and a member of the U.S. Congress.

I prepared three ring binders for each official that we visited that outlined issues I intended to raise on your behalf. The first concern I addressed is the urgent need for legislation to grant permanent residency status to the estimated 16,000 (that may be a high estimate now) legal, long-term foreign workers of the CNMI. I asked that either H.R. 1466 be amended to include an additional category of all long-term (5 or more years) legal, aliens representing the 12,000 who were callously omitted from the bill, or to introduce a new bill to include all legal, long-term foreign workers. I also presented problems and concerns with the CW Program. I requested that the U.S. government ensure that victims of wage theft receive justice. I brought up questions concerning the November 27, 2011 deadline and the plight of the workers who have no "home" to return to after devoting so many years to working legally in the CNMI. Also in the binder were documents supporting green cards in the form of petitions, testimony and emails and letters from workers and workers' organizations; copies of letters that I sent to members and officials over the last two years; and supporting documents that illustrated problems that workers are experiencing now.

Yesterday I attended a lunch meeting with an engaged and interested staffer from the Center for Immigration Studies.  I also spoke with a reporter from a major U.S. newspaper who is interested in learning of the latest plight of the legal, long-term foreign workers.

For over 20 years, people have criticized me for giving "false hope" to the foreign workers. In fact, it was my belief that the United States is a democratic nation that respects basic liberties, freedoms and equal opportunities for every member who contributes to advance our society that gave me hope that the U.S. Congress would act to grant status to the CNMI's legal, long-term foreign resident workers.

It was my belief that the United States is the torch bearer of human rights that recognizes the dignity and worth of every person that gave me hope that U.S. officials would ensure the repayment of over $6.1 million that was stolen from the pockets of the foreign workers.

It was my belief that that the United States viewed immigrants as diverse threads, each essential in keeping the fabric of the American quilt strong, that gave me hope that the "immigration champions" in the U.S. Congress would dedicate themselves to ensuring that the CNMI's 16,000 legal long-term foreign workers in the CNMI were held in the same regard as they hold the 11 million undocumented (illegal) aliens in the United States. I believed that they would support legislation to grant permanent residency with a pathway to citizenship to the CNMI's legal aliens, just as they have introduced such legislation on behalf of the undocumented aliens.


It was my faith in the basic principles of our country –democracy, justice, equality, freedom and liberty– that made me believe that the United States would finally do right by 16,000 people who left their homes to serve the CNMI by offering their skills to building the island nation not just physically, but economically and socially.

Perhaps I was wrong. It appears that the United States of America that I want to believe in exists only in the pages of history. Today only a very faded shadow of the former greatness remains.

It appears that possession of a conscience, moral values, commitment to the public good, and support for basic American principles are merely sound bites that too many members of the U.S. Congress use only while on campaign trails and discard with a wink when they enter the Halls of Congress.

It appears that too many staffers echo the excuses of their bosses who so nonchalantly cast American principles aside to follow a political agenda that is simply a road map to their re-elections, a road-map that is leading our country over a cliff.

We can probably count on our two hands the number Congressional members who still possess  integrity and have the best interests of the American people and our nation at heart. Fortunately, I visited the office of one such member in the House and one such member in the Senate, leaving both with a slight glimmer of hope.

It is much easier to get a member of Congress or staffers to respect and listen to you if you are a lobbyist who can offer pockets full of money to fill campaign coffers, rather than a poor and lowly human rights advocate who can only offer facts and plead for help. Most do not want to hear from advocates because taking a moral, ethical and just stand may represent a major detour in their roadmaps to re-election, or may require that they put aside their self-serving political agendas to advance the public good.

Even after all of the discussions and meetings, many questions I had concerning the status of the foreign workers and the impending November 27, 2011 deadline remain unanswered.  I conclude the following:
  • No one who has background on the CNMI immigration and labor issues or a basic understanding of P.L. 110-229 expected the bill to be so poorly implemented. While no one could predict the expensive and damaging Fitial lawsuit, the long delay in issuing the final rule was extremely detrimental and has reaped unnecessary havoc for employers, employees and all who call the CNMI home.
  • Few expected the federal CNMI-only transitional guest worker program to be a long-term program that would be extended. Some shared my interpretation that it was to be a temporary program to supplement the private sector workforce until such time as the DOI Report was released and status would be granted to the foreign workers. Granting the legal long-term foreign workers status would ensure that there would be enough private sector employees to fill all of the jobs and would allow surplus workers to relocate elsewhere. The foreign workers make up an estimated 90% of the private sector. (According to Governor Fitial and other CNMI officials there are not enough U.S. citizens to fill these jobs.) Granting permanent residency status would also end the need for a costly transitional CNMI-only federal guest worker program, as the INA could be fully implemented in the CNMI. 
  • Many agree that the legal, long-term foreign workers should be given permanent residency status, but make political excuses, such as Congress is presently dysfunctional, or such action would not be politically advantageous for them to introduce such legislation.
  • Few will take ownership of their mistakes including the failure to include a status provision in P.L. 110-229, and failing to immediately introduce legislation to grant status to all of the long-term resident foreign workers immediately after the DOI Report was released. It is the consensus of officials that I spoke to that the window to pass permanent residency may have already passed because of inaction from the Congress to introduce legislation at the opportune time. 
  • The U.S. Department of Interior, as part of the Obama Administration and the main agency charged with recommendations as to status for the long-term foreign workers, should have taken the lead in pushing members of Congress and congressional committees to introduce legislation to provide status. It did not, to the grave detriment of the foreign contract workers. In fact, I received no response to several letters, including certified return receipt letters that I sent in July 2011 to the Secretary of the Interior and Assistant Secretary of Insular Affairs requesting their immediate action. From my letter:
    . . . As Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees territories and insular affairs, what position do you take on this important issue? Please read the attached correspondence and written testimony concerning H.R. 1466. I am urging you to take a public position that supports granting the legal long-term foreign workers of the CNMI the social, political and economic rights that they have been unjustly denied for decades.
  • I also sent similar pleas by certified return receipt to President Barack Obama, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, and the Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. The Administration clearly does not want to take a firm position or move to push Congress to follow the intent of the CNRA. The Administration's egregious failure is not just noted by me, but by some congressional members and staffers. 
  • No one can explain why members of the Hispanic, Asian American, Black and Progressive Caucuses, who support comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented (illegal) aliens, will not support the same for a mere 16,000 legal, long-term foreign resident workers, or why these members should even be trusted again to protect the rights of any aliens. It appears that their rhetoric may be political and self-serving, and not truly based on humane or righteous ideals. 
  • Many co-sponsors sign bills merely as an act of "deference" to a political ally or in exchange for future favors without even knowing what they actually signed or who the legislation will harm as appears to be the case in H.R. 1466.
  • No one can explain why if an employee steals from their employer it is considered a criminal act that will be prosecuted, yet if an employer steals from his employee it is considered a civil act that unjustly places the burden of collection on the employee.
  • Some said that the cheated foreign workers will never receive reparations or may never collect the wages stolen by CNMI criminal employers documented at over $6.1 million. Still others agree these victims must be paroled until the CNMI government or employers repay them.
  • Most agree that only criminal aliens will be removed from the CNMI if they are out of status, and they have stated that the intent of the Morton memo will be followed.  Still there are no written concrete assurances or specific directives that this will actually be the case, and still no answers for what happens if this memo is not followed. Unanswered questions include: Will an out of status alien be allowed to return to the U.S. to accept work if he or she is actually deported? Would out of status aliens be locked up creating yet one more expensive burden for the federal tax payers who live outside of the CNMI? Would mainland taxpayers who are carrying the burden of the CNMI-only guest worker program since CNMI residents pay no income taxes, also have to bear the staggering expense of repatriation for out of status aliens? Is the U.S. government prepared for the backlash for human rights advocates and organizations that would result if aliens in the U.S. are treated differently than the aliens in the CNMI in regard to the Morton memo?
  • Most acknowledge that there is no CNMI or U.S. money set aside to repatriate aliens, and no plan to do so. Others say this is the responsibility of the CNMI government or the workers' former employers to repatriate any and all who are jobless and want to leave.
  • Some acknowledged that the proposal to support parole-in-place for all legal, long-term foreign workers until such time as status for all can be decided is a plan that has already been proposed to high ranking officials in DHS and USCIS.
  • Few expected that the federal program would have as many problems as it does.
  • No one can figure out how to solve the problem of (and some have no sympathy for) the catch-22 of preventing employers from telling foreign workers that if they do not pay for the costs of their visas  ($325 for a CW visa and the $150 education fee) that they will not be hired. Just like  the CNMI program, because the foreign workers are regarded as disposable and replaceable in this new federal program, the employer maintains the upper hand and any employee who exposes the violation will be out of a job.
  • No one can explain how it came to be that the federal system is merely continuing the problems of the broken CNMI system. One concern that I pointed out is that employers are allowed to bypass applying for H1-B visas because they are allowed the option of applying for less expensive  CW -1 visas for employees in specialized categories. This means that professional jobs in the private sector are kept ridiculously low-paying and unacceptable to most U.S. citizens. It means that professional positions are paying the same low hourly rate as positions that do not require college degrees or specialized skills.
For example:
From the Saipan Tribune, October 6, 2011, page 22
Grace Christian Academy, Tinian Campus is looking for: 2 elementary school teachers and two junior high teacher – full time salary- $5.05 per hour.
Grace Christian Academy: one school custodial worker part time, 25 hours per week,  salary $5.05 per hour.
From the DOL Job Vacancy site:
Accountant, Alexander, Inc. $5.05 - $7.25 an hour
Sous Chef, Tinian Dynasty Hotel $6 to $7 an hour
Administrative Manager Tan Holdings -$5.05 -$5.50 an hour
Graphic Artist - Glimpses of Saipan, Inc. $5.05 to $5.50 an hour
Refrigeration Mechanic, Coca-Cola $5.05 - $5.50 an hour
Nurse Assistant (requires 2 year degree in nursing) Pacific Medical Center, Inc. $5.05 - $9.00 per hour
Radiology Technician and Medical Technician (both positions require a bachelor's degree and 2 years experience) Pacific Medical Center $5.05 -$6.75 per hour
Electrician Tropical Gardens $5.05 to $5.50 an hour
  • No one can explain why businesses such as the Tinian Dynasty Hotel are allowed to hire foreign workers under a federal guest worker program when they owe foreign workers over $100,000 in back wages and have a case filed against them with the U.S. Department of Labor. Shouldn't they be forced to pay the workers that they have their back wages before being approved to hire additional workers? (Check out their ads for dozens of workers at the DOL website.)  The same goes for Saipan Water and Ice that is advertising for a diesel mechanic at the insultingly low hourly rate of $5.05 to $5.50 an hour. This company also reportedly owes foreign workers back pay and has a case with USDOL.
  • No one can explain why a legitimate business should be allowed to waive visa fees, since one must assume that if a business owner cannot afford the fees, then they also cannot afford to pay their employees.
    While many cannot explain these issues, some said that they will investigate certain issues that were raised, and some said they will try to initiate improvements.

    Visit with Congressman Sablan
    Rabby Syed and Congressman Sablan
    © 2011 W. L. Doromal
    “Immigration is ultimately a humanitarian issue since it impacts the basic rights and dignity of millions of persons and their families. As such, it has moral implications, especially how it impacts the basic survival and decency of life experienced by human beings like us. … Our current immigration system fails to meet the moral test of protecting the basic rights and dignity of the human person.”
    Bishop Gerald Kicanas, from the Catholic archdiocese in Tucson, AZ

    As I said, I have always honestly reported all events so in that spirit I will honestly report the meeting with Congressman Sablan. I scheduled the visit to Congressman Sablan's office as the last one, because our disagreements have obviously caused conflict and debate. I do not agree with his stand on this issue.  I understand that he will not do what I consider to be morally right as far as introducing legislation to grant status to all of the legal long-term, foreign workers. His political reasons may be valid, but my stand is that you never know until you try and moral trumps political. After all the DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegals passed the House. 
    Status for millions of illegals passes, yet status for less than 20,000 legals wouldn't pass? This is a concept I cannot grasp.

    When I met with Congressman Sablan I asked him if he had to face the 12,000 foreign workers who he left out of his bill what would he say to them. He responded with just two angrily-delivered words – "Go home."

    When pressed, the Congressman mellowed his responses to a discussion about his father's caregiver who may also be in danger of not having status and at times he showed sympathy for the workers. He repeated that he would like to help all, but cannot.  Based on the discussions in this meeting, I can conclude that he wants to see the foreign workers without a U.S. citizen connection leave. (I cannot say that he wants to see just the foreign workers without jobs leave, because many of those with U.S. citizen children and spouses are unemployed.)

    Congressman Sablan wants the foreign workers to leave so that the unemployed U.S. citizens can take their jobs. He represents these people so that line of thinking should be considered a valid argument. He even mentioned that the 15,000 U.S. residents who are available to apply for jobs should be encouraged to file EEOC complaints if any of them applied for a position and a foreign worker was hired instead. This statement drives home an important point. It means that not just the foreign workers who are presently without current employers are in jeopardy of losing status, but those who currently hold positions are in jeopardy of losing status. Thus, absolutely no foreign worker should consider their status "safe".  When I pointed out that under the CNMI system, as with the U.S. system, citizens were always given preference for jobs, but they didn't want the low paying private sector jobs Congressman Sablan said, "Now they want to work."

    When asked about amending the FLSA to lower the threshold of enterprise coverage of CNMI businesses from $500,000 to a lower figure for the CNMI so that minimum wage law could be enforced for most CNMI businesses, he said that he wasn't about to ask for special treatment for the CNMI and/or territories. I reminded him that he was proposing that the CNMI get special treatment under the INA with a new CNMI-only immigration category.

    I talked about the foreign workers who brought foreign-born children to live in the CNMI and also consider the islands their home, like families with a U.S. citizen children. Congressman Sablan dismissed this argument by saying that some foreign families adopt their relatives' children in questionable adoptions.

    I suggested that the "foreign contract workers served you" (meaning the people of the CNMI) for decades and have earned status. The Congressman stated that he never hired a foreign worker and none of them "served him". If anyone has lived or visited the CNMI, they have been a recipient of the many contributions and service of the foreign workers. They are cooks, waiters, nurses, doctors, teachers, cleaners, accountants, construction workers and represent hundreds of other professions. They have improved the quality of life for every person who calls the CNMI their home, not just by contributing their skills, by by contributing taxes and boosting the economy.

    We can never expect that Congressman Sablan will amend his bill to help everyone; he will not. He will not acknowledge any flaws in H.R. 1466 or admit the injustice and inequity of providing protection only for those long-term foreign workers who are eligible for green cards now or those who will be eligible when their U.S. citizen children turn 21 and petition them.

    We cannot expect the "immigration champions" or the other Democrat co-sponsors to move to amend the bill even though they support a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal aliens.  The policy is to defer (apparently blindly) to the member of Congress whose district is affected by the bill.

    After this meeting I was overwhelmed with sadness. I once believed that Congressman Sablan at least respected and appreciated the contributions of the foreign workers and their families. I am not so sure that is true anymore, which is depressing.  While I disagree with his opinions, I believe that he is sincere in believing that he is doing what is best for the voters and their families. It is unfortunate and shocking that there is a place on U.S. soil in 2011 where at least half, or maybe even a majority, of the voting age population is disenfranchised and unrepresented.

    On "False Hope"
    We've been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. 

But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.” 
-Barack Obama

    I have been criticized by anonymous commenters on this site and elsewhere for giving "false hope" to the foreign workers. Where does the hope originate from? Some of that hope came from Congressman Sablan and other members of the U.S. Congress who expressed sympathy and vowed to support status for the legal, long-term foreign workers. In 2009 Congressman Sablan initiated a gathering with the foreign workers and members of the U.S. Congress at the Garapan Fishing Base. I was involved in the plans and helped with some testimony and coordination. Here is a hopeful quote from that trip:

    Christensen, in a brief interview with reporters before leaving the Garapan Fishing Base, said the committee still has some work to be done, “to make sure that the status of people who are here, the guest workers, are secured, and for that reason, I felt I needed to come back.”
    Even earlier than 2009 I was given reason to suggest that there was hope for status for the legal, long-term foreign workers. In October 2007 I flew to Washington to meet with members of Congress and staffers to plead to strengthen and not remove the status provision from H.R. 3079, the bill that would become P.L. 110-229. I was told at that meeting that P.L. 110-229 would not pass with a status provision, but that legislation to grant status would follow shortly after the bill's passage. That message, which was repeated several times since the initial meeting also gave me hope.

    In November 2007 Nani and I flew back to Washington to attend the markup hearing on H.R. 3079. I submitted petitions and hundreds of  letters from the guest workers as well as written testimony to the House Resources Committee. In written testimony pleaded with the members to include a status provision in the bill, warning of the consequences that would occur should they fail to do this. Sadly, everything that I predicted would happen if a status provision was not provided in the bill, has happened. (Read that statement.)

    I said in part:
    The labor and human rights abuses that continue to plague guest workers have been caused in part by their lack of political and social status. As long as CNMI employers know that the guest workers can be looked at as replaceable commodities, rather than asrespected humans and future citizens, the abuses will continue. There are good and honest employers in the CNMI, but too many employers exploit the guest workers and threaten to terminate them for illegal reasons. Guest workers feel that they have to do what these employers want, or they will lose their jobs. . .Without solid status or a pathway to citizenship, they will continue to be disenfranchised indentured servants in a two-tiered system, even under federal law.
    Many of us who supported the legislation after the the removal of any status provision only did so with the promise that after the legislation passed, a bill to address the status would be introduced. Promises from staffers and members gave us hope.

    To those who accuse me of "giving false hope to people that are desperate," I have this response. I have always honestly reported all events relating to issues concerning the foreign contract workers, both positive and negative, on this site and elsewhere. I have extensively documented and provided links to information, articles, reports, letters and other supporting documents. The foreign workers are intelligent adults who are capable of interpreting facts and events in order to make wise decisions and choices that fit their individual circumstances. It is not my role to tell adults what decisions they should make, especially ones that impact the future of themselves and their families. I consider my role to advocate for them.

    So to the foreign workers, I can only say:  

    I have tried to the best of my ability with limited resources to advance your cause and help you to achieve justice. There is a slim chance that H.R. 1466 will pass before the year ends. There is a very slim chance that it would be amended. There is also a slim possibility that a true champion of the foreign workers will introduce legislation that would grant permanent residency to you. 

    I am deeply ashamed of how my country has and continues to treat you. Please know that there are people who care about all of you and there are officials who are trying to help all of you to achieve justice. 

    Advocating for the CNMI's foreign workers has always been a privilege and honor for me. This last trip to Washington, DC was even more special because I was able to able to share the experience with a dedicated and truly exemplary worker representative, Rabby Syed, the President of the United Workers Movement. 

    Finally, I want you to know that I stand with you whether your choice is to remain hopeful, to return to your homeland, or to stay in the CNMI – in or out of status. I stand with you whether you decide to take to the streets, to appeal to officials in letters or petitions, or to remain silent.  I stand with those  with a foreign born child or spouse, those with a U.S. citizen child or spouse, those who are gay and those who are single.  I remain in awe of your courage, strength and dignity under such stressful and uncertain circumstances. You are truly deserving of praise and admiration. You will always have mine.

    UPDATED with photos by request

    Jefferson Memorial from MLK Memorial
    ©2011 W.L. Doromal







    Washington Monument
    ©2011 W. L. Doromal
    Lincoln Memorial ©2011 W. L. Doromal



    Rabby and Nousher at the Metro Station
    ©2011 W. L. Doromal
    Rabby at the Lincoln Memorial

    Quote from wall at the Martin Luther King Memorial
    ©2011 W. L. Doromal

    46 comments:

    Anonymous said...

    Thank you for the honest report and for your hard work. A lot to think about.

    Anonymous said...

    Wendy,

    Your efforts to help us have been appreciated ever since. You are not a politician that's why you care also for people that are not voters. Everyone knows that life is not fair, but almost everyone believes that it should be fair. That's the facts of life. I understand

    I want you to know how much we appreciate the way you have cared for us these years. We are fortunate to have you donate your time like this. I express heartfelt thanks for all you did and will do.

    I sincerely appreciate your outstanding work in getting this crusade; it is delightful to see how our eyes light up when you are working for the improvement of our status especially when you say "there's hope". Thank you for the lively interest you are doing for us. You are a great.

    I hope you will be inspiring us with your hard work and perseverance advocate for years to come. Thank you Wendy for your excellent advocate.

    Sometimes I believed that spending all of our time expressing dissatisfaction about the unfairness is ignoring a basic fact of life. It might have been unfair, but that happens. Let's face it.

    Melberlin

    Wendy Doromal said...

    Thank you for your comment, 8:19

    Merberlin:

    Thank you also. I am not going to apologize anymore to the naysayers for my optimism or for believing that there is always hope. After all, I am a teacher and teachers believe that the seemingly impossible can be achieved with effort.

    I will stand up for the foreign workers until the last one leaves the islands.

    Love and best wishes to you and your family.

    [1 of 3] Green Cards for All! said...

    Dear Wendy,

    Thank you for your heart-felt and honest explanation of the current situation, and your committed advocacy over the years. While some may have disagreed with your tactics or positions, there is no gainsaying your self-sacrificing commitment to the welfare of the CNMI's guest workers as a matter of conscience.

    I would like to comment on your 17 bullet-pointed "conclusions."

    No one who has background on the CNMI immigration and labor issues or a basic understanding of P.L. 110-229 expected the bill to be so poorly implemented.

    Actually, many opponents of the CNRA, Pub. L. 110-229 predicted exactly that, especially those, such as myself, who had 17 years of federal employment under my belt. Many federalization advocates, guest worker and local alike, had a highly unrealistic view of the federal bureaucracy as a paragon of efficiency and "savior", particularly when contrasted with the corruption, cronyism, and inefficiency of the CNMI government. But never forget that the CNMI government was modeled after the TTPI bureaucracy.

    Few expected the federal CNMI-only transitional guest worker program to be a long-term program that would be extended. The CNRA itself provides for 5-year extensions after the initial five years.

    Many agree that the legal, long-term foreign workers should be given permanent residency status, but make political excuses, . . . .

    The bottom line is that the citizens of Guam do not want to be overrun and out-competed by CNMI guest workers fleeing a declining economy. Who can blame them?

    Few will take ownership of their mistakes including the failure to include a status provision in P.L. 110-229, and failing to immediately introduce legislation to grant status to all of the long-term resident foreign workers immediately after the DOI Report was released.

    The U.S. Department of Interior, as part of the Obama Administration . . . should have taken the lead in pushing members of Congress . . . .

    See above. That would be a tremendous disservice to the people of Guahan. Delegate Bordallo was the key player.

    No one can explain why members of the Hispanic, Asian American, Black and Progressive Caucuses, who support comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented (illegal) aliens, will not support the same for a mere 16,000 legal, long-term foreign resident workers, or why these members should even be trusted again to protect the rights of any aliens. It appears that their rhetoric may be political and self-serving, and not truly based on humane or righteous ideals.

    The latter was apparent to federalization opponents at the outset, as well as those (like myself), who would have supported federalization if done right -- with the CNMI having a Delegate at the table before it was enacted.

    Pub. L. 110-229 was essentially pure political vindictiveness, a vendetta by pro-union members of Congress indebted to the declining domestic garment industry who were outraged by the chutzpah of the CNMI in hiring Abramoff to stand up to their federalization efforts for a decade, poisoning the political well in the process.

    As I and so many others repeated to no avail, why not do an economic study before imposing federal minimum wages and immigration on a weak economy? Even the smallest construction project in the U.S. has an Environmental Impact Report far exceeding anything done before the CNRA was passed. This was an exercise in raw, naked political power and retribution.

    Where are David North, Allen P. Stayman, and David Barret Cohen now?

    [2 of 3] Green Cards for All! said...

    Many co-sponsors sign bills merely as an act of "deference" to a political ally or in exchange for future favors without even knowing what they actually signed or who the legislation will harm as appears to be the case in H.R. 1466.

    This is true of progressives and conservatives alike.

    No one can explain why if an employee steals from their employer it is considered a criminal act that will be prosecuted, yet if an employer steals from his employee it is considered a civil act that unjustly places the burden of collection on the employee.

    Essentially this is a function of the mens rea or "guilty mind" necessary to prove a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt. When a business fails to justly pay wages, it is extraordinarily difficult to prove that there was an intent by the employer all along to deprive the worker of his wages, as opposed to business losses, poor economic climate, et cetera, et cetera.

    They take investigative and prosecutorial resources beyond what is available in the CNMI.

    But going forward, employers should be shut down before the arrearage grows so large. One of the best tools for doing so would be to reduce enterprise liability from $500,000 to $50,000 in the CNMI.

    This may be a productive focus of your advocacy, even with Kilili (whom I greatly respect and worked with for more than two years). It is justified because of the CNMI's guest worker program, and any change could be co-terminal with that program. The CNMI OAG simply does not have the resources to do what needs to be done.

    Some said that the cheated foreign workers will never receive reparations or may never collect the wages stolen by CNMI criminal employers documented at over $6.1 million. Still others agree these victims must be paroled until the CNMI government or employers repay them.

    I agree with the former. This happens all over the country. It would be nice if the latter were to occur, but highly unrealistic.

    Most agree that only criminal aliens will be removed from the CNMI if they are out of status, and they have stated that the intent of the Morton memo will be followed. Still there are no written concrete assurances or specific directives that this will actually be the case, and still no answers for what happens if this memo is not followed. Unanswered questions include: Will an out of status alien be allowed to return to the U.S. to accept work if he or she is actually deported? Would out of status aliens be locked up creating yet one more expensive burden for the federal tax payers who live outside of the CNMI? Would mainland taxpayers who are carrying the burden of the CNMI-only guest worker program since CNMI residents pay no income taxes, also have to bear the staggering expense of repatriation for out of status aliens? Is the U.S. government prepared for the backlash for human rights advocates and organizations that would result if aliens in the U.S. are treated differently than the aliens in the CNMI in regard to the Morton memo?

    In the U.S. non-criminal out-of-status aliens are still removed, so there is no reason to expect the CNMI to be different. The Morton memo is about priorities; it is not a grant of immunity. Deportation constitutes a statutory bar to re-entry in most or all instances. This is not a life-time ban as former CNMI law provided; I think it is a decade. Check with an immigration lawyer.

    Yes, surely some out-of-status aliens will be locked up. As for the staggering expense? “Federalization: You asked for it; you got it.” © 2008, Ms. D. It is unlikely there will be substantial differences in how ICE treats out-of-status individuals in the CNMI versus the mainland.

    [3 of 4] Green Cards for All! said...

    Most acknowledge that there is no CNMI or U.S. money set aside to repatriate aliens, and no plan to do so. Others say this is the responsibility of the CNMI government or the workers' former employers to repatriate any and all who are jobless and want to leave.

    That is now a federal responsibility since 28 November 2009. Former CNMI immigration law imposing such duties on employers has been preempted by federalization. In any event, it only applied for a certain period after termination of employment under CNMI-approved contracts, which has now expired.

    I would submit that this is another area in which advocacy could be effective. Airlift capacity could be provided by U.S. Air Force C-141 planes, as well as Philippine Airline charters undertaken by the Republic of the Philippines.

    Unless repatriation resources are provided, the CNMI may well have a humanitarian crisis on its hands.

    Some acknowledged that the proposal to support parole-in-place for all legal, long-term foreign workers until such time as status for all can be decided is a plan that has already been proposed to high ranking officials in DHS and USCIS.

    Based on the USCIS response so far, this seems unlikely. It might be justified, however, given that regulations were just issued in early September, giving employers less than three months to decide what to do.

    Few expected that the federal program would have as many problems as it does.

    This is the same as your initial conclusion.

    No one can figure out how to solve the problem of (and some have no sympathy for) the catch-22 of preventing employers from telling foreign workers that if they do not pay for the costs of their visas ($325 for a CW visa and the $150 education fee) that they will not be hired. Just like the CNMI program, because the foreign workers are regarded as disposable and replaceable in this new federal program, the employer maintains the upper hand and any employee who exposes the violation will be out of a job.

    This is a huge problem, and even worse with all the prospective "agents" and "sponsors" who are out soliciting right now. It is SCAM CITY on Saipan right now! Everyone is preying on desperate and scared unemployed guest workers. The anguish!

    Too bad so many AUSAs just departed the USAO. The FBI or ICE should fly in a dozen agent of the same ethnicities as our guest workers to do some sting operations; there is MAJOR immigration fraud going on right now!

    [4 of 4] Green Cards for All! said...

    No one can explain how it came to be that the federal system is merely continuing the problems of the broken CNMI system. One concern that I pointed out is that employers are allowed to bypass applying for H1-B visas because they are allowed the option of applying for less expensive CW -1 visas for employees in specialized categories. This means that professional jobs in the private sector are kept ridiculously low-paying and unacceptable to most U.S. citizens. It means that professional positions are paying the same low hourly rate as positions that do not require college degrees or specialized skills.

    This is highly ironic considering that federalization was supposed to "solve" such problems, though it was never explained exactly how it would do so, and the statute doesn't specify how the new system would work or how it would be any different from the old. I chalk this up to excessive optimism on the part of federalization advocates.

    USCIS and ICE enforcement, however, may very well determine that CW visas will not be granted to H-1B eligible workers, substandard wage levels will not be approved, and sponsorship scams will not be tolerated as with the woefully understaffed CNMI system.

    Please accept these comments with the spirit in which they were written, not as an “I told you so” but as an attempt to move forward, find common ground, and do what is best for the workers.

    That is all I have ever been doing. I helped close to a dozen in-laws work in the CNMI over two decades. Three are still on Saipan, at least one of whom is unemployed, and another with a daughter born four months after the 8 May 2008 cut-off date.

    Do your best at lobbying, of course, but I submit productive areas of emphasis would still be the $50,000 enterprise coverage, and obtaining airlift from DoD and foreign countries.

    Prayerful best wishes.

    Wendy Doromal said...

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments Green Cards.

    Anonymous said...

    My tears are falling as I read this. not because we are leaving, but because i won't get to say good-bye to you and thank you. I will always remember what you did for all of us.

    Wendy Doromal said...

    9:35

    (you)

    Please stay in touch

    Love and best wishes to you

    Anonymous said...

    So in essence, there will be no saving legislation.
    Even Sablan's bill will most likely not make it before the deadline.
    As Sablan stated from the beginning, there was no chance of a bill passing that would cover all of the workers so he narrowed it down to a specific group to try and get that bill passed.

    It is true that the Fed have really screwed this thing up royally and Fitial and his administration had caused much problems from the beginning hindering any and all action from the Feds that would favor the CW thus also causing so much uncertainty in the private sector in relation to employment.

    Although you have stated that it has always been US workers first, that in reality has only been on paper alone and was seldom if ever practiced as many of the employers could not get away with the abuses they practiced on the CW.
    Many of the local people think that the CW were getting everything free. That was seldom the case.
    Many of the deductions were illegal and over priced.

    The list of abuses can go on, but if you can remember or have read from the beginning on the inception of the plan for the CW to be allowed into the CNMI, they were all to be brought here to supply training to "local" workers and then return home after a limited number of renewals. (I think it was three years)
    The original purpose of this was to keep them from "claiming" or be eligible for a "status".
    We all know how this original agreement went because of the greedy NMI "connected" thus leading up to and compounding present present problems.

    So in essence there is no more hope as we are looking at days now until the end.

    The way the things are going the Regs will only perpetuate the "old System" as you pointed out. The wages will remain low to insure that there will be none or few US Cit. to apply for any of these jobs.
    "Kilili" is wrong if he stated that "now they will work"
    "Now" they still will not work and even if the wages were higher there are still many jobs that will not be taken by US Cit. here.

    Maybe the best thing that will happen (for the NMI)is for many to leave and for you and others to somehow lobby to shut the door on any additional future workers coming in under this system.
    Also work to collect the back wages for the many unpaid workers.
    Have all come under the :"visa" work system as in other parts of the US thus that will in itself insure that wages are raised in the NMI.
    It won't help the present unemployed workers but may make many "whole" by getting paid and give them a new start in life.

    It surely will be interesting to see if there will be any enforcement on past employers to repatriate these workers and to pay them.

    Maybe a miracle will happen but if so it won't be from this US President as he is in survival mode.
    Best of luck to all.

    Wendy Doromal said...

    9:48 Thank you for the thoughtful comment. I especially like the following ideas and have also considered this: "Maybe the best thing that will happen (for the NMI)is for many to leave and for you and others to somehow lobby to shut the door on any additional future workers coming in under this system.

    I agree with this and am working on this now: Also work to collect the back wages for the many unpaid workers.

    This is also a good thought:
    Have all come under the :"visa" work system as in other parts of the US thus that will in itself insure that wages are raised in the NMI.
    It won't help the present unemployed workers but may make many "whole" by getting paid and give them a new start in life."

    human said...

    thank you madam wendy for giving us your time and care..we will never forget you,we are very happy that we have someone like you,i wont forget the time i met you and shake hands..hope to see you agein..

    Anonymous said...

    It took courage to write this and courage to do what you have for oh so long. I salute you, Wendy Doromal.

    Wendy Doromal said...

    10:05 I won't forget you either. I hope to see you all again too. You will always be in my heart wherever you are...

    10:06 Thank you for your comment

    Anonymous said...

    Wendy, although not unsypathetic to the plight of some contract workers I am a realist having worked within the U.S. government for several decades. That said I have deep respect and admiration for your tireless work on their behalf. I know that what you have seen as it relates to how Congress and politics as a whole has shaken your true beliefs and ideals of what you thought it was all about or should be all about. It is through no fault of your efforts and beliefs the outcume you advocated for did not come to pass. It is due entirely to those who have turned our system into a mere shell of what the original designers of our system of government envisioned. I am sure you will continue to devote yourself to injustices wherever you find them and keep your head high........

    Wendy Doromal said...

    11:22 Thank you for the kind comment. I will fight on....

    Anonymous said...

    for all the hours you gave, money you spend, pure heart of gold, never giving up, standing up to haters, protecting us, speaking up for us, you need a medal of honor. i give you thanks and praise from my heart. may god bless you.

    Wendy Doromal said...

    12:07 Thank you -it's my honor to help in my small way. May God bless you also.

    Anonymous said...

    thanks to you, m'am. we will leave but no locals will take our jobs. they won't know how and don't wnat to work. there spoiled from having the gvt job where they don't have to work. you see i'm right.

    Anonymous said...

    When people don't work, they have no pride. Kilili is right to want his people to have jobs. Read the papers everyday and you see family hitting family members with machete, knives, chairs or anything else they find. It's an epidemic of brutality in the NMI and part of the cause may be poverty and despair.

    And yes, the aliens have given a great deal to the NMI and will be needed for many years to come. I hope they do get status down the road if a new Congress is voted in. I'm glad to hear you'll fight on until the last alien is gone. Keep up the good fight. It isn't over til the fat lady sings and I don't hear her yet.

    Anonymous said...

    Thank you Ms. Wendy!

    Anonymous said...

    Just a heads up here. ICE is currently putting plans in place to renovate an old garment factory in Gualo Rai (old Ben Franklin building) and convert it into a minimum security ICE detention facility. The main DOC facility will still be used for ICE "hard cases".
    ICE say in their words,they are aware of many illegals out on the streets. The irony is the construction work will be done by CW workers hired in local companies. Very sad times for the CNMI and we still have not hit bottom.

    Anonymous said...

    Anonymous 2:19 Let's get this right. You bring in thousands of workers. Cheat and rob them. Then you make them illegal and use them and federal dollars to build a jail. Then you throw them in it? So where'd you meet up with this ICE clown, I mean agent? In a bar? Yep, the feds and the whole system is nuts. What a joke!

    Wendy Doromal said...

    2:32 Good clarification. This speaks to the fact that the United States of America has lost its humanity, conscience, heart and soul. It is a "mere shell of what the original designers of our system of government envisioned" as one commenter so eloquently stated. That ICE story sickens me, as does the current state of our country.

    Anonymous said...

    Mom is there a rally planned? We heard there will be a rally.

    Wendy Doromal said...

    3:02 Yes, there are plans for a rally since the foreign workers have been requesting that a rally be organized. Rabby will be back in the CNMI in a few days and will announce the planning meeting date.

    Anonymous said...

    Great post. Any elected official who thinks it's acceptable that a radiology technician with four years of college and two years of experience should be earning $5.05 to $6.75 an hour should be voted out of office. This program is laughable. Some are saying the CNMI program is the pilot program for the U.S. guest worker program. Talk about major fail. Keep the hope alive and stay strong in the fight because it's far from over.

    Anonymous said...

    Anonymous 2:32 Yep the ICE detention facility is a go. Yes they are clowns, Yes it is sad the way things are developing in the CNMI.Just be glad it is not your wasted tax money.... To bad the CNMI has no say in these things now days. We had a chance for over 20 years and being the irresponsible clowns WE ARE we blew it.

    Anonymous said...

    "Strike While the Iron Is Hot."

    means: "When you have an opportunity to do something, do it before you lose your chance."

    Friends, the iron is hot. Fitial, Kilili, the CNMI legislature, employers - they are all asleep. Your petitions, letters, rallies, and pleas have not awakened them yet.

    So what will it take to wake them?

    Anonymous said...

    Hi Ms.Wendy.
    Thanks a lot for what you have done for all workers.please dont feel bad or depress your self.please dont argue with unfair humanity of US politicians.Be proud that you are the best person on the earth.thank you for all job done.i thank your great sense of humor as a american.wish u all the best from one of the indian guy.who is leaving soon and i will share about you to with my friends back in india.i salute you as a american strongest human rights woman.i request you to please relax now.i met you long time ago i hope you know me.....but i can say from my heart that you are the best...please always be happy....love and hugs....may power with you always.....

    Anonymous said...

    6:35pm anony.
    i think all worker must united to stop work and ask them to send them back by 28th november.it will open them eyes all the way...they will freak out ...The looser is CNMI gov and saipan chamber of commerce.Thumps up.....

    Wendy Doromal said...

    10:13

    Thank you for the sweet message. Maybe I will see you in India one day. I will fight on despite the shame and the reality that my country has failed all of you in a huge way. There's always a chance that one good person will do right by the foreign workers.

    Love and hugs from your friend

    Anonymous said...

    Ms. Wendy Please can we have a photo of you? Thanks for all of your help to us. we will never forget you. god bless always

    the prophet said...

    This post sounds like a eulogy. The case for social justice will never end. Advocates get too emotional on cases but leaders don’t, and they don’t quit. They take a pragmatic approach, change strategies, make concessions, refocus the cause, build strengths, forge new partnerships, assess political alliances, and prepare for a place at the table in a rapidly changing world.

    Virtually no one has gone home yet, at least not by deportation. The ICE building is old news, at least to everyone here in the know.

    The quest for status is a myth anyway. Yesterday I seen friend at the airport and ask him where he was going and he smiled and said “Guam”, to which I replied “another poor worker strikes gold, send us a postcard”. Many of the workers still here are unskilled, they haven’t educated themselves in the years they have lived here, still speak their native language and haven’t improved their English skills even with all the opportunity to do so, send their earnings away to the point they can’t afford a plane ticket, are living like squatters and hermits, and there is not much sympathy here for those individuals from citizens.

    Every time I hear that contract workers have built Saipan I just shake my head and laugh because it isn’t something anyone would brag about. The mark contract workers have made here isn’t these dilapidated builds around here anyway, it is their children. Their kids have kicked everyone’s ass in the public schools. Perhaps because of strong parental support, perhaps it is their tenacious work ethic, or perhaps it is members of the servant class wanting to prove better in America, much like my Irish ancestors. I like to think it is American pride from those determined young citizens. I hope the hopeless parents don’t hang on them too much, because if you really love them, you will set them free and let them have their own lives instead of saddling them with responsibilities to support an endless chain of beggars.

    A rally will not work because the only people who will participate are unemployed persons, so if anyone plans a march you may as well make it to the iCE building. A work stoppage won’t work because the employed won’t support it and the unemployed aren’t needed.

    The bad trajectory for Saipan is that with Grace Christian paying 5.50 for elementary teachers and engineers trying to find work for the same, this place will look like a sewer. If we want it nicer, we must get rid of every poor worker and hire US citizens that will demand real salaries. I would hope workers with children can appreciate that.

    Anonymous said...

    Prophet, This isn't an eulogy. It is a review of discussion that Wendy had with officials in 3 trips to Washington. She is not "quitting" and in fact, she said repeatedly that she would "fight until the last foreign worker leaves." She has been with this cause since the 1980s and is still with it. That's a sign of commitment that no one can deny. Maybe I don't always agree with her, but she's one dedicated and intelligent person. Her heart is with the CWs and they are better for her activism.

    For many unemployed CWs it sure feels like the end. Most of us sympathize with the CWs who have to uproot their families to face uncertain futures. We get that you don't.

    As for building Saipan, yes they did. And who made the islands a dilapidated mess? Not the CWs. Everything they built up was torn down or destroyed by the leader's poor plans and leadership. The workers' are fine parents. Most speak English and most are skilled laborers.

    Hope when every worker leaves you like the empty island with no tourist and no future. What a stupid comment from the first to last sentence.

    Anonymous said...

    Lets wait till Nov 28 to hold the Mega Rally. Lets hold it as a protest in the new ICE detainment facility that they are supposedly building. That will teach them. It would be free to get in and all you need to get out is a CW visa or H1, etc. The CNMI will be fine after all unemployed leave. The CW that are employed will be much better off. All the illegal/unemployed that are working on the side illegally, will no longer be taking the work that should be completed legally.

    Wendy Doromal said...

    12:41

    I put up some photos for you here. Good luck and best wishes to you.

    Anonymous said...

    For every 1,000 OCWs that leave count on 10-20 small businesses closing and 1-3 larger businesses shutting doors. For every 100 children that leave say goodbye to 3-4 teachers. People who want OCWs out may regret their words...

    Anonymous said...

    0950: Yeah that will teach ICE a lesson. You may find yourself locked up in the new detention facility yourself. Using an abandoned garment factory is fitting since it once held people against their will it will again serve this purpose but now under the direct control of the Department of Homeland Security. Will the Ombuds exercise her duty as their "lawyer" and spring them from this nightmare?

    Anonymous said...

    5:02 Prophet...The aliens of the NMI won't ever get seats at the table...even former alien friends stab us in the back...where in USA does alien work 10-30 legal years and get kicked out?... why illegals in USA mainland get more consideration? ..status isn't a myth...it's blocked by Kilili and NMI leaders that want us out...the locals won't fill the alien shoes and NMI will fall...

    Anonymous said...

    2:28 We don't hear from ombudsman no more. Where is she? WE NEED HELP AND ADVISES!

    Anonymous said...

    thank you ms. wendy for your work and this report. i'm glad you still try even if it looks hopeless.at least your helping gives us some hope.good luck to you and to all alien workers.

    Anonymous said...

    My hat's off to you. Few have the courage to tell the truth without leaving something out to protect others who may not have good intentions. This is honest and forthright.

    I especially admire your respect of the CWs:

    "To those who accuse me of "giving false hope to people that are desperate," I have this response. I have always honestly reported all events relating to issues concerning the foreign contract workers, both positive and negative, on this site and elsewhere. I have extensively documented and provided links to information, articles, reports, letters and other supporting documents. The foreign workers are intelligent adults who are capable of interpreting facts and events in order to make wise decisions and choices that fit their individual circumstances. It is not my role to tell adults what decisions they should make, especially ones that impact the future of themselves and their families. I consider my role to advocate for them."

    Anonymous said...

    Except for rabby the nmi worker advocates with US family are out to save themselfs. They don't care of us whose been longer here than them. if they did they would stand up when they no were left out. just coz they got a US kid or wife they are safe. we got kids and family to take care of to. thanks to mom wendy and rabby for trying to help us without no US family.

    adverse seo said...

    I appreciate your efforts.

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