January 8, 2012
The Saipan Tribune included a laundry list of complaints (most blaming innocent foreign workers) that will be the foundation of the Fitial Administration's lawsuit against DHS, which has issued humanitarian parole to long-term foreign workers, despite protests from CNMI leaders. Here is the mostly unfounded, racist list with my responses to each bullet point in red:
1. Illegal work deprives U.S. citizens of jobs and uses enforcement time. Unemployed aliens work at illegal part-time or fluctuating-time jobs. They are paid substandard wages well below the minimum wage and no overtime. They are preyed upon by those who require them to participate in illegal businesses, threaten to expose them to the authorities and often collect bribes. Employers refuse to hire U.S. citizens when cheap illegal labor is abundant. The CNMI has only seven labor enforcement officers who cannot keep up with this tide of illegal work.
The solution to this problem is to enforce laws, both local and federal. If the CNMI government knows that "illegal" businesses exist, why haven't they been shut down? What is defined as an "illegal" business. Is this lawsuit saying that the U.S. resident or CNMI elected official who hires unemployed aliens to cut brush, do yard work, work on a ranch, perform childcare services or perform other similar duties is an "illegal" employer? Will they arrest these employers? Who benefits from these so-called "illegal" businesses? Are they patronized only by other "illegals" or by "locals"?
The AG should list the names of these businesses and detail each case and prosecution that the OAG has filed in the years since federalization has been enacted. Or is this just a generalization with no factual basis? Since the CNMI government issues and revokes business licenses where is the enforcement? Is the Fitial Administration saying that this practice, which the CNMI has allowed and encouraged for decades, should be blamed on DHS or USCIS or that enforcement should be the responsibility of the Federal government now? This is an ironic claim since in the previous Fitial Administration lawsuit, in testimony, numerous statements issued by the Administration and in labor laws that attempts to pre-empt Federal law the underlying premise and claim was that the local CNMI government has a better functioning local labor and immigration system than the Federal system. We now see a lawsuit that describes a local government that is unable to enforce local laws and oversee legal licensing of businesses.
The primary reason that the aliens have been and remain prey to corrupt schemes and persons is because for decades the CNMI government has failed to enforce laws or prosecute abusive employers –legal or illegal– or any persons who prey on the foreign workers. Instead of enforcing laws or providing consequences to the abusers, this corrupt government has repeatedly dismissed all valid labor cases and dismissed valid bond obligations to the extreme detriment of the victims and benefit of the criminal abusers who were and are granted impunity. The CNMI government sent a message to the community that foreign workers are easy targets and violators of their rights will not be prosecuted. The CNMI government must take full responsibility for the corrupt environment that they created. The OAG must produce a list of every case that they have filed against abusers and those who have preyed on the innocent foreign workers. (Certainly it would take less than a day to compile such a short list.)
2. Unemployment among U.S. citizens is already high. More pressure from illegal work by unemployed aliens forces more U.S. citizens to emigrate to Guam or the States to find employment.
Unemployment among U.S. citizens is the direct result of the CNMI government's past and present actions and policies. The CNMI officials fought to keep the CNMI minimum wage low –so low that a person working two (2) full time jobs would still be earning an annual salary that would be below the federal poverty level! The U.S. citizens shun today and have shunned always the average low-paying private sector jobs for exactly that reason.
When the economy was robust, the CNMI government hired U.S. citizens (locals) to work in government jobs. Many CNMI government jobs were unnecessary positions that were created in the "trade a vote for a job campaign" that typically occurs prior to all CNMI elections. The vast majority of the U.S. citizens (locals) worked in the government sector until the world-wide economic crisis hit the CNMI. When the economy crashed in the CNMI many of the unnecessary government jobs had to be eliminated. Additionally, the CNMI government has refused to raise much-needed revenue in the form of taxes and instead devised an austerity program to cut government employees' hour by 16 per biweekly pay period. This increased the need for more private sector jobs that just are not available because of the hard economic times and closing businesses.
Locals and U.S. citizens left for the U.S. and Guam because there were not enough well-paying government jobs and they could not afford to work in the private sector for the CNMI minimum wage, which is under $6.00 hourly. Their exodus has more to do with CNMI government attempts to keep the minimum wage low than with any foreign worker who was granted humanitarian parole or is engaged in any so-called, unnamed "illegal" businesses. Read more here, here, here, and here.
3. Unfair competition causes legitimate businesses to close. The enterprises that hire aliens illegally typically pay no U.S. or CNMI taxes, have no worker's compensation, pay no medical or other benefits, and dump workers as soon as they are unable to work. This gives these enterprises a significant cost advantage over legitimate businesses.
What unfair competition and "illegal" enterprises is this AG specifically talking about? Are they talking about yard sales, people who sell products from the trunks of their cars or actual store fronts? Name the "illegal" businesses if they exist. Name the "illegal" business owners. Name the "illegal" aliens who are hired. Are unemployed U.S. citizens engaged in "illegal" businesses or just alleged aliens? Name names, name owners and name businesses if they truly exist. Shut them down if they exist.
4. Public safety costs increase. Petty crime such as copper wire thefts, drug selling, and burglaries increase, causing losses suffered by citizens and aliens working legally.
Are the crimes in the CNMI committed only by out-of-work aliens or are they committed by employed and unemployed residents and others? Where are the statistics to show the rise in crime by unemployed aliens or others and where is the evidence to link it to unemployment, foreign worker status, humanitarian parole or any other factor stated in the laundry list? Is the CNMI lawsuit alleging that when aliens are out of work they become criminals or that they inspire criminal activity? The AG should create a list of crimes over the last ten years broken down by criminal, race/nationality, and employment status to determine the basis for this claim.
5. Health care costs increase. The CNMI's share of health care costs for indigents rises swiftly as the numbers of indigents presenting themselves at the CNMI's only hospital increase. Sanitation decreases as illegal housing and illegal businesses grow, leading to more health problems.
Health care costs have been a problem for decades. This is absolutely nothing new. Look at the data. By contract, the employer of a foreign worker was responsible for covering the employee's health care costs. Many employers illegally deducted the health care costs from the foreign workers' pay (again with impunity) or just did not pay the bills. Additionally, because of financial restrictions and lax collection practices many "locals" have unpaid bills with the commonwealth's health centers.
Unpaid health care bills are not a problem created by any segment of the CNMI society, but by are the result of the failure to collect fees, the inability to pay because of ridiculously low private sector wages and the economic downturn. Unless the minimum wage is going to be raised to a livable wage, then the problem will persist.
What is illegal housing and where are these illegal houses? Are these buildings that do not conform to the CNMI building codes? Who is policing them and if they know that they exist why are they not boarded up? Let the AG produce a list the addresses of these so-called illegal houses that the CNMI government fails to regulate.
The unsanitary conditions were evident in the CNMI for years prior to the federal takeover. Look at the abandoned garment factories, La Fiesta Mall (documented by Current TV) and numerous small businesses that are all over the island of Saipan. A CNMI business closes and weeds, vermin and grafitti invade, while the CNMI officials close their eyes and ignore the problem.
6. Public utility revenues are lost and costs increase. Illegal housing and illegal businesses often involve illegal hookups to water and electric services.
The CNMI has the highest electricity rates on U.S. soil and has for a decade. This is nothing new, and like all of the other arguments, this problem was CNMI-created and existed prior to the federal takeover. It is extremely difficult for any person who is making minimum wage (or below if you count the hundreds of foreign workers who are victims of wage theft by their unscrupulous employers) to pay utility bills at the high rate charged by CUC.
Again, if government officials are aware of illegal hookups, cut them off. If they are aware of "illegal" businesses shut them down.
7. Social services costs increase. Unemployed aliens crowd the food stamp rolls and when ceilings are reached, local U.S. citizens cannot receive aid as no new recipients can be added to the rolls. Distressed aliens who have been abused in illegal work situations, often by foreign employers, seek help. Private social service organizations run out of resources and are not available to assist local U.S. citizens.
No government social service agencies such as housing, health care or food stamps serve the foreign worker population. They are not eligible for food stamps or Medicaid, although their U.S. citizen children are. This racist AG is saying that he believes that the U.S. citizen children of foreign workers are somehow less deserving of social service such as food stamps than the U.S. citizen children of locals. His statement, "Private social service organizations run out of resources and are not available to assist local U.S. citizens." says it all. This statement exemplifies the supremacy and racism that has has been promoted by the Fitial Administration and permeates the CNMI society. It is sickening, discriminatory and illegal. (See the racist remarks by CNMI residents in comments here and here and read comments in the Marianas Variety stories daily to see the extent of racism.) Perhaps the USDOJ will look at this lawsuit and finally file one of their own to stop all of the CNMI blatant discrimination and civil rights abuses.
Secondly, because the CNMI minimum wage is so low as a direct result of the actions and policies of the CNMI officials, (CNMI officials including Fitial and Sablan wanted the last wage increase to be postponed) even if every person in the CNMI was employed in the private sector he/she would likely qualify for social service programs because of the low wages that fall below the established Federal poverty rate.
8. Judicial system costs increase. Petty crime and illegal work cases add to the burdens of local courts.
The AG needs to provide the data to show this is an established fact directly related to the complaint of the lawsuit. How many illegal work cases have been filed and are being pursued by the CNMI Department of Labor and/or CNMI law enforcement agencies? Data, facts, statistics need to be shared to show the connection.
9. Environmental damage increases. Illegal housing and illegal businesses are often accompanied by illegal waste disposal and illegal dumping. Illegal employment includes illegal hunting and fishing.
So we are to believe that all of these problems that have occurred for decades are now suddenly because of DHS or USCIS or that these federal agencies can prevent them?The CNMI government should reread the original lawsuit that it filed against the federal government in which it declared that the local CNMI labor and immigration system was perfectly functioning as a model and should be maintained. These most recent statements proposed as a basis for another lawsuit against the federal government suggest that the previous declarations were false. This list of complaints requires people to believe that all of a sudden, because of the granting of humanitarian parole to deserving aliens or because of other federal rules, the CNMI has suddenly declined as a society. It requires people to believe that the past and ongoing problems of the CNMI that were created by CNMI leaders well before federalization, should now be blamed on the federal government.
Most striking is the fact that the foreign workers were recruited by and stayed for years and decades in the CNMI with the blessing and approval of the CNMI government. Governor Fitial even brags that he was the author of the first CNMI labor and immigration law that brought in tens of thousands of foreign workers making the local people a minority in their islands. After years and decades of hard work and numerous contributions, instead of pushing to grant them permanent residency, which would allow those legal, long-term foreign workers who are employed to stay and those in poor jobs or unemployed to leave, the CNMI official not only want to discard them like yesterday's trash, but to blame them for all of the CNMI's problems.
The CNMI government pursues this lawsuit like a spoiled brat child who has messed up his room and defiantly demands that it is somehow the fault of his parents and they should be the ones to clean it up while he continues to play. The CNMI government should take responsibility for the mess created by a corrupt government, non-enforcement of laws and damaging policies and actions.