January 6, 2012
The Attorney General said:
"The concern of the commonwealth was and is that we had a number of people who entered the commonwealth under commonwealth law to do a job. The job was generally speaking to work in the garment industry. which of course is gone. We now have thousands of people who no longer have jobs.
They don't have a means of self-support so as a result of that they are adversely affecting the economy. We are very poor. We have health care which is very limited. We have people who are now using the health care systems, people who because they don't have jobs are subject to being exploited. In desperation they can commit crimes and that has an impact on the criminal justice system and drain other resources. We simply need to get these cases resolved and move on."Many of the present day foreign workers did not come to work in the CNMI as factory workers. They were hired to work in hotels and restaurants, as engineers, accountants, construction workers, beauticians, nurses, teachers and numerous other positions. Of course, it was the CNMI government who recruited all of these foreign workers. It was the CNMI that allowed the factory workers to remain legally in the CNMI to find new employers after the garment factories closed. It was the CNMI that allowed the foreign workers to be renewed year after year after year until the years turned into decades making them de facto citizens. It is the CNMI that regards the foreign workers as commodities, rather than as human beings or future citizens. The majority of the foreign contract workers who lost their jobs between the time the umbrella permits were issued and the DHS Final Rule was released applied for humanitarian parole. If that parole was granted they remain legal and there is nothing that the CNMI government can do about that. Immigration is a federal issue.
This attorney general needs to review his files and determine who is committing the majority of the crimes in the CNMI. The majority of the crimes (at least those that are publicized by the CNMI press) are not committed by the foreign workers, but are committed by U.S. citizens. In fact, there are numerous crimes that have been committed against, not by, the foreign workers over the years. Many of these crimes were never prosecuted, including numerous sexual assaults and the brutal attack on a Chinese foreign worker by then police officer Jesse Dubrall.
How have any of the foreign workers "adversely" hurt the CNMI economy? They contribute to it by paying rent, and purchasing commodities and services. The economy will suffer if an exodus of foreign workers occurs. This is basic economics and common sense.
Buckingham defined the goals of lawsuit:
"To have those people who should be here, be here. Those people who should not be here, be gone. What we're looking at with the USCIS case is they should have completed their work on or before November 27th. They didn't. What we have now is something without rules, without a timeline. That isn't good for anybody. What we want is USCIS we like the cases simply to be stopped as of November 27th, but if that's not done we want assurance we work with USCIS to get these cases reviewed, processed, resolved. The solution would be individual case reviews. We pick up a case file, we look at it, and we can't be them but they haven't done their job so we want to be assured that individual cases on an individual basis, not as a blanket, but as an individual case is reviewed and then a determination is made. Should you stay, should you not stay."The way I see it is when a person has lived and worked legally in a place then they have earned the right to be granted permanent residency status and "should be" allowed to remain in the CNMI.
Regarding humanitarian parole Buckingham said, "When something is granted without legal authority that is the basis for our suit. Our position is that the paroles were improperly issued on a blanket basis That is improper. That is what we'll be challenging."
The U.S. government does have legal authority to grant parole. Furthermore, how can it be considered "blanket" parole if every individual foreign worker had to file separate applications that were reviewed and approved on an individual basis by USCIS?
On the other hand, the CNMI Department of Labor has employed "blanket" actions to inflict permanent and irreversible harm to many of the CNMI foreign workers. The department made numerous declarations and public announcements dismissing all legitimate labor cases rather than enforcing their own Administration Orders. These blanket actions were made to the detriment of the cheated foreign workers and to the advantage of the criminal employers who got away with wage theft. Many of the violators were also allowed to hire new foreign workers to cheat.
The U.S. now controls immigration in the CNMI. Maybe this lawsuit will clear up a few things. It could clarify the intent of the CNRA, which is to align the CNMI with the INA rather than to continue to keep the CNMI as a "special" case or maintain the status quo forever. Both Fitial and Sablan push for the CNMI to be treated differently and as a "special" case under the INA. We see this push for "special" treatment in Sablan's bill, HR 1466. This discriminatory bill proposes to establish a "special" CNMI-only status that would continue the status quo while permanently harming the remaining 3/4 of the legal, long-term foreign workers by purposely leaving them out of the bill. We see this push for "special" treatment with the Fitial Administration's racist policies, remarks and proposed labor law that attempts to preempt federal law. Both officials have the same goal –to rid the islands of the majority long-term foreign workers so that the "local" people can maintain political control for as long as possible.
Perhaps it is time for the foreign workers to cut their losses and seek employment in a country that has just labor and immigration laws, less racism, and regards foreign workers as future citizens rather than commodities. Sometimes one has to wonder if the CNMI deserves or appreciates the contributions of the foreign contract workers.