December 12, 2011
Part of the confusion has been caused by the failure of the U.S. Congress to introduce legislation to address the status of all legal, long-term foreign workers. Instead Congressman Gregorio Sablan introduced HR 1466, an inferior bill that leaves out 3/4 of the long-term workers in a discriminatory way and would grant the ones that are included a CNMI-only status that would continue their disenfranchisement and travel restrictions. It is a proposal that mirrors provisions found within the post-Civil War Black Codes.
The bill has been co-sponsored by Democratic members of the Congressional Hispanic, Black and Progressive Caucuses who fight for the rights of undocumented aliens in the U.S. mainland, but threw the now estimated 14,000 legal aliens of the CNMI under the bus via HR 1466. These Democrats are supporting two very different and conflicting immigration positions – a progressive and just one for the 11 million undocumented aliens in the U.S. mainland and an oppressive and unjust one for the CNMI's legal aliens. I will continue to try to convince a member to introduce just and democratic legislation.
In an interview on KSPN news Assistant DOI Secretary Babauta acknowledged that some foreign workers were not being recognized under the USCIS parole. The foreign workers with no U.S. citizen relative were left out of HR 1466 and the USCIS parole. An unjust and unequal, discriminatory system was set up with the approval of the Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress.
Attorney General Buckingham is contemplating a lawsuit against USCIS to prohibit case-by-case parole for the limited categories of CNMI aliens, including unemployed aliens with U.S. citizen. Babauta said he supports USCIS. While Assistant Secretary Babauta said that he supports granting parole to the selected groups of aliens who may fall out of status as a result of the transition, he also acknowledged that there were some who were left out of consideration. When asked about those not covered he said that they should exhaust all legal authority afforded them. But according to USCIS media spokesperson Marie Sebrechts those who have no parole or CW visa need to leave. What legal authority do they have left?
Mr. Babuata said that it was a time to treat people fairly and equally under U.S. immigration law. He also stated that the foreign workers' work should be recognized and they should be treated equally and with dignity. Sadly, this is impossible if HR 1466 passes. It is not fair legislation and it is not equal legislation. Under this legislation more than half of the equally deserving legal foreign workers are ignored. Under this legislation an unmarried foreign worker who has worked in the CNMI for 28 years and lost his job yesterday must leave, while a foreign worker with a U.S. citizen immediate relative who has been in the CNMI 9 years and has not worked for 6 years will be allowed to stay. Fair?
Mr. Babauta also said that the federal government has done a very good job on implementing the transition. He said growing pains are expected and mentioned that the education effort has been very good. I agree. However, the delay of the final rule, in part due to Fitial's lawsuit and in part due to the relaxed schedule of DHS, caused excessive turmoil, suffering and uncertainty. I also feel that if the U.S. Congress had done its job and introduced legislation to grant permanent residency to all legal, long-term foreign workers in May 2010 after the DOI Report was released then there would be much less confusion and fewer problems. The guest worker program would have been very small and limited. Those foreign workers with jobs could stay and those without jobs would be free to go elsewhere. Under HR 1466 many unemployed foreign workers who will be granted CNMI-only status will be chained to the islands to their family's detriment.
If HR 1466 passes before the end of the year (it would have to be this week) then it will move to the Senate where it will face scrutiny and a hearing, most likely not until February at the earliest. If it doesn't pass this week in the House, there is a better chance to substitute it for a just bill that includes all of the foreign workers.