Light A Candle for the Foreign Workers of the CNMI

November 21, 2011

Each time a man stands up for an ideal,
or acts to improve the life of others,
or strikes out against injustice,
he sends a tiny ripple of hope,
and those ripples, crossing each other from a million different centers of energy,
build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

Robert F. Kennedy

Foreign worker with children at prayer vigil in CNMI
Photo by Itos Feliciano

Today and every day until November 28, 2011 people across the nation are lighting candles to demonstrate unity with the foreign workers of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Mariana Islands (CNMI). The foreign workers are asking the U.S. DHS to grant them parole-in-place until such time as the U.S. Congress introduces a bill to grant them permanent residency. I invite you to join us in this symbolic stand of support and unity.

There are 16,000 legal, long-term workers in the CNMI. They were recruited from the Philippines, China, Korea, Japan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Nepal, India Burma, Vietnam and other countries to work in the CNMI. They have been renewed annually for years and decades; they lived there on U.S. soil legally for 5, 10, 15, 20 30 or more years. The CNMI is their home.

U.S. P.L. 110-229 applied federal immigration law to the CNMI. On November 28, 2011 these legal foreign workers who do not have CW visas or parole under the US CNMI-only Guest Worker Program will wake up and be out of status. At the stroke of midnight these legal foreign workers will become illegal aliens and will be subject to removal or deportation.

Many of these foreign workers have U.S. citizen or foreign born children. Most of them have been victims of wage theft. Because they make minimum wage, which in the CNMI is $5.50 hourly, most do not even have enough savings to pay for their airfare to the countries from which they departed so many years ago.

A humanitarian crisis exists at this very moment in the CNMI. Will you help?  Please contact an official (some contacts emails and phone numbers are here) and request a just solution to the crisis in the CNMI. If nothing else, please join the supporters of the foreign workers by lighting a candle to show unity for their cause.

From the foreign workers:

Watch a video of foreign workers and their children pleading for green cards.

Every night the foreign workers are outside the USCIS office.  You can stop by to show your support and thank them for their years of service to the CNMI.

More photos from Itos Feliciano.


Anonymous said...

Just FYI, Ms Wendy!

CHC has not yet filed any petition for the nurses as of today. They have not signed any contract yet. A nurse said, they don’t want CHC to petition them without executing the contract first. No contract has been issued and signed so far, nurses are thinking CHC is holding it to the last day, so that CHC could delete some benefits like housing allowance. That would give no time for the nurses to bargain. And if that happens, she said, they are more willing now to walk away, resign and withdraw their contributions from the Retirement fund.
I just can’t understand why these nurses are still apprehended by chc management to inform public, they’re salaries and housing benefits are delayed already.

Wendy Doromal said...

Hello 9:40

Wow. Not surprising. I would not budge. Let them hire US citizens. Do they deserve the skilled and caring foreign nurses, physicians and other medical personnel? Probably not, especially the way that the nurses have been treated. I hope you can find a position in a country where you will be treated with respect, appreciated, have good working conditions, are paid on time, are given excellent pay and benefits and have a pathway to citizenship. The CNMI is NOT that place. I hope that the foreign governments are watching this display of continuing human rights abuses and continual disrespect for foreign workers and their families, and will refuse to allow any more of their citizens to work in the CNMI. I wish you and all of the nurses the best of luck. Please stay in touch.

Maryland USA said...

I'm lighting a candle and sending this to everyone I know. Will also make some calls when Congress is back in session. Good luck to the foreign workers.

Anonymous said...

Itos Feliciano:

You are a great photographer. Thank you for the beautiful photos. The first photo should be on the front page of every newspaper in the USA.

Anonymous said...

San Francisco, CA lighting a candle for the cause. I'd like to share this:

In Germany they came first for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Martin Niemoeller (1892-1984)

God bless you and may you prosper.

Anonymous said...

"Let them hire US citizens. Do they deserve the skilled and caring foreign nurses, physicians and other medical personnel?"

What an arrogant presumption. US Citizen nurses are some of the best in the world Wendy. US physicians set the standard the world over and are in very high demand. Foreign nurses get hired because they work cheap and give adequate care. DO NOT INSULT AMERICAN WORKERS.

Wendy Doromal said...

12:27 I did not mean it that way. All dedicated nurses of any nationality are valuable. In the CNMI US workers are preferred, yet they are unavailable or not enough to fill many skilled positions. The CNMI has ill-treated foreign medical personnel, especially nurses. Do they deserve or even appreciate such dedicated foreign workers? I do not think so. Foreign workers get hired because the CNMI wants to get quality workers without paying them what they are worth. US workers won't put up with nonpayment of wages. The CNMI does not deserve foreign workers. Top elected leaders put them down, many residents put them down and many of their employers cheat them. If anyone should be insulted, it is the foreign workers!

Anonymous said...

You are correct M'am Wendy. We're not treated as human beings. Let them see if U.S. citizen workers who are professionals with degrees will work for bad wages and take the bad conditions.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:17 PM

"Let them see if U.S. citizen workers who are professionals with degrees will work for bad wages and take the bad conditions."

You are correct, they won't but you will. That about sums it up. The PI Government needs to reinvest in it's own people to stop the human labor export which they live on otherwise cheap somewhat skilled laborers will continue to be exploited around the world. BTW, many countries that once brought in many "guest workers" have slowed way down and are now investing in their own citizens. I anticipate another coup in the Philippines within a year or two.

Anonymous said...

Despite a surplus of nurses in the U.S. mainland, like most private businesses, CHC would like to keep all their non-resident staff despite stacks of applications from U.S. residents. Indigenous and mainland U.S. workers that are hired are routinely denied the "housing allowance", which presents a problem for the CW visa applications, which requires CW visa workers to be paid the same or less than resident workers for identical positions.

Non-residents are preferred workers because they cannot vote, do not complain. Their salary which is up to $16/hr.+ $9K/yr housing allowance is equal to many areas in the U.S. mainland.

Does anyone ever wonder why there has been zero recruiting for CHC hospital since nurse visas to the mainland dried up in 2006? And how they get away with it? There are between 150-400 thousand unemployed nurses in the Philippines right now, and the U.S. mainland has a surplus. A walkout of all non-resident nurses would be welcome news to the 75+ unemployed U.S. and nonresident nureses currently on the island of Saipan right now. CHC has BSN nurses who have not passed the NCLEX working as nursing assistants. Maybe CHC needs to look into hiring some of the graduates of Saipan Southern's nursing assistant program, or maybe they can simply post a job announcement for a nursing assistant with a 4 year college degree in Nursing like other saipan businesses are doing.

Anonymous said...

2:49,"I anticipate another coup in the Philippines within a year or two".

This will not happen under Aquino's watch.
He has the highest approval rating of any president.(maybe comparable, or better than his mother, Cory)
The present Pres. is actually cleaning up much of the corruption within the Govt. including the Judiciary,Police, the Armed Forces and many other agencies, as he promised.
They have also arrested former President Arroyo the other day for various charges, her husband most likely will fall also along with other family members soon. These are for crimes while Arroyo was in office.

Aquino has stated he wants to bring his people home and is trying to create jobs for them.

You are correct about many workers are being sent home from other countries. (this includes all nationalities)These countries are attempting to put their own people to work.
The Phil. biggest export is it's people.
The country's economy depends on the remittance from it people from overseas.
There have been much investment in the Phil. since Aquino came into office.
Recently the Chinese have started some projects in excess of $8 billion (US)
Companies from India, Great Britain and other European and Asian countries are also setting up in the Phil. and have trade agreements.

This Phil. President has stated from the beginning he will only be a one term President, he will not run again..

BTW I am not Phil. I am a US Cit. but I have things going on there and NMI.

With the economy in the NMI so bad I am spending more time in the I do not expect anything to improve in the NMI until after this Fitial and his Mafia are out of office.
By then it will most likely take another ten years to get back to just manageable.

the teacher said...

8:41 - That is some accurate and current evaluation of PI. We've known the industrialized countries would restrict guest workers since the economic meltdown began but if they (meaning PI) continue to fight corruption, they could provide work for some of them (abroad workforce) at home. That would be great for PI, as no country can survive by sending their brightest away to build other countries.

We were in ten countries this summer and the poverty in PI was the worst I have ever seen anywhere.

However, the building around Makati is impressive and Manila employment seems to increasing. China has made enormous investment there...they have bought much influence there as well. PI must manage their overpopulation. China’s method for solving the same problem seemed cruel at the time, but it did work, and is one of the factors of China's success.

The most alarming sight there to tourists (several Russians told me recently that they made their first and last trip there) is the children begging in the streets. I think the state should take those kids and put them in a govt institution to be cared for and educated. The derelict parents should be prosecuted even put on a work farm to help defray costs of raising their child. Those kids would grow to be the pride of the Philippines instead of the shame of it.

Here are some pics from PI taken in 2011...

Anonymous said...

The main reason there are so many kids begging is that under Phil. law minors cannot be prosecuted for criminal acts.
Recently there was a woman that hired a young boy 15yrs, to work around her house and property because she felt sorry for him and his family.

This boy eventually raped her tied her up and then slit her wrist and left her for dead.
The woman survived.
The prosecute let the boy go because they could not file charges against him.

BTW, if any child under the age of 7yrs is hurt, or injured or run over by a car or other acts, the parent(s) of that child are held responsible and prosecuted under the law and not the driver or other outside person involved in the injury.

There has been warning notices out by the US Embassy (and other Embassy) regarding those kids that are working as gangs, especially in Manila. They are under adult supervision.
They will surround a person(s) and then steal wallets purses jewelry etc.
These beggars are all over, to an extent, Subic, Angles City, Cebu etc.
The "organizer" (gang leader) usually shows up with meals for these kids and to collect the money and valuables etc, driving a nice car.

Govt. places like DSWD are full and over crowded.
The population keeps increasing because of the interference by the Catholic church and it threat to excommunicate any elected who will push through a birth control measures.
To have a baby in the Phil. cost less than 1000 peso ($20 US) at any Govt hospital.
Much less if had at home with a midwife.(500 peso and can be paid over time)

As you mentioned there is a definite problem with trades people (lack of) in the Phil.
It seems that the only real trades people are the ones that have returned from overseas.
I have a problem finding anyone that can do any trades correctly.
I have a place outside of Subic in Bataan area and also a small farm in Camarines Sur.(Naga City area)
I scanned through your link and will look more closely later on this evening. Thanks,