News for Foreign Workers

November 22, 2011

"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest."   Elie Wiesel


Governor Fitial brags that he wrote the CNMI's labor laws that allowed the CNMI to bring in tens of thousands of foreign workers. His law encouraged cheap labor to boost an economy built on quicksand; made the local residents a minority in their homeland; and kept local residents relying on "a vote for a job scheme", where political candidates promised government jobs in exchange for a vote.  This all worked out wonderfully for the fat cat politicians, business owners and U.S. citizens when times were good and the economy was great.

That was then, this is now. Today in the CNMI, as in most of the world, the economy has crashed and reality has set in.  The governor has changed his tune. All of those foreign workers that he once encouraged to enter the CNMI, and approved of renewing for years and decades, are no longer welcome. Instead of offering a thank you for their tremendous service and contributions, the governor instead attacks the foreign workers at every chance he can, and is not shy about his eagerness to see them leave.

This governor who was so opposed to raising the minimum wage to the federal level that he hired expensive lobbyist to fight legislation, said this to KSPN on November 21, 2011:
"To tell you the truth, you know, these change in status, now I'm beginning to realize that perhaps it's the best. It will really improve the living standard of the people of the commonwealth. How? Because the living standard will be improved when we have higher wages. We won't have any more of these, you know, minimum wages. It's a positive thing because now it will force, you know, the local people to be trained, to be educated so that they can, you know, work and earn higher wages. They will no longer be getting paid the menial wage and salary that they used to get before."
Hopefully, any remaining foreign workers will also be paid a fair and living wage.

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Despite the late release of the final rule, USCIS is doing a great job in trying to educate the CNMI public concerning the CW Program.  They have held numerous workshops, educational sessions and online sessions. Today the Marianas Variety reports some very relevant facts from USCIS that dispel rumors and misunderstandings.

Unemployed foreign workers with valid umbrella permits and those given an extension of their parole are eligible to be petitioned for CW visas. Marie Therese Sebrechts U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services regional media manager said:
“An alien who is lawfully present before November 27, 2011 and is granted a parole extension until January 31, 2011 and who does not work after November 27, 2011 may be the beneficiary of an I-129CW filed prior to the parole expiration and can also be an applicant for a grant of status.”

She said the alien would not, however be eligible for continuation of employment. “Employment cannot begin until the I-129CW petition is approved and CW-1 status granted.”
She also told the Variety that there was no truth to the rumor that a hold had been put on any parole applications.

The manager also addressed the issue of scams, which reported have escalated as unscrupulous individuals and agencies prey on the desperate foreign workers. There are hotline phone numbers to report scams: 1-670-233-0600 or 1-877-347-242, More information can also be found at this USCIS site.

Unfortunately, there will be scams as long as there exists a guest worker program that regards the foreign workers as disposable commodities that can be replaced, whether the program is local or federal.
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Lines at the U.S. Post Offices also show the problems created by the final rule being released only a few months before the deadline. The new postmaster reports an average of 400 customers a day, as many customers are rushing to send their employees' CW-1 applications before the November 27th deadline. The hours of the USPO at Chalan Kanoa were extended to accommodate the increased volume of mail.

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