The Results of the CNMI's Ongoing Corruption is Blamed on Federal Government

January 8, 2012

The lawsuit that CNMI Attorney General Buckingham says that the CNMI government will file against the DHS and USCIS is ridiculous and frivolous. If it was not another complete waste of taxpayer's money, it would be hysterical and entertaining, but it is a total waste of time, money and resources that will only accomplish one thing. It will further embarrass and disgrace the CNMI and Fitial Administration, which is already mocked and the subject of jokes in Washington, DC political and media circles.

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 herehere, 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.


Anonymous said...

This case has merit according to every Saipan attorney I have talked with about this. In light of that, the judge may rule with the CNMI AGO.

Law and economics combined, it will never improve here for CW workers unless they have some means to qualify for PR status through skill or family based.

I would say our largest empoyers are they themselves CW workers, the poster children for labor abuse and non-payment, and the source of an employer for lowly paid unskilled workers here. So this situation can't last. Our schools are fed by two companies that are foreign owned, with all four owners employing themselves as CWs, they don't hire citizens, and that business, meaning hiring NO CITIZENS must stop, it was a primary reason for federalization.

Anonymous said...

On the contrary, I don't know an attorney who works in federal court who thinks the case has merit.

I have come to the conclusion that the federal government is to blame, but not for the reasons stated by the AG. It is to blame because it has enabled and encouraged corruption in the CNMI, turned a blind eye for a generation, and continues to prop up a government that should be more accountable to its people. CNMI relies on federal handouts rather than get its own act together, reasonably tax its people, or work for its long-term benefit.

Anonymous said...

"Environmental damage increases." Isn't the US EPA suing the CNMI government for environmental violations and improper disposal of oil etc.?

It's not your money! said...

I agree with Anon 12:53.

The problem with the feds is that federal officials in remote communities are always having the rug pulled out from under them by overly cautious bureaucrats in D.C.

For example, when the governor writes nasty-grams against the DEA, or the ombudsman, or the EPA or whoever, the bureaucrats will usually back off just to make the complaints stop. The bureaucrats assume that the governor must be honest and legitimate because he's the governor. From the bureaucrats' perspective, they don't get a gold star for fixing a problem in Saipan--nobody cares what goes on here--but they can get a black eye if they are forced to respond to their superiors about why the governor of a territory is complaining about them.

And even if you have a bureaucrat who really understands the problems and is willing to support his people (think David Cohen or Lenny Rapadas), the governor and his advisors know they can always appeal to the next level of authority within the agency in hopes of finding someone who will call off the dogs.

So eventually, even the local federal officials learn not to push aggressive enforcement here, because their supervisors in Washington will not back them up, and they will wind up losing face because they got reined in after the governor complained.

This is a recipe for how to kill a local island community: combine one part ignorant voter with one part elected crime boss, mix well with one part CYA Washington bureaucrat, and sprinkle liberally over one terminal economy.

Green Cards for All! said...

Good analysis, sir, to which I could only add: the lack of federal resources resulting from bureaucratic inertia. E.g., no resident DoL or EEOC attorney, closure of Interior OIG office on Guam, funding positions through DOI grants vice departmental budgets. This is where the Delegate could make a difference.

Then there is the occasional inadequately vetted employee, such as SA Hewett or a certain lady AUSA, the disparate treatment of federal “local hires”, and supervisor politics. Don't forget when the bureaucrats had everyone pushing Wendy's referrals, most of which didn't pan out.

Haven't seen evidence yet of a crime boss yet, though, except the ones who ran away to their homelands under indictment.

Pam Brown Blackburn said...

Not all things are public when it comes to what, when, who, how, and why things are investigated by federal agencies. Just because it is not splashed all over like the CNMI alleged enforcement and legal actions, does not mean it is not on-going.

Wendy Doromal said...

Hi Pam

Of course, the public does not know what is happening behind closed doors. The public relies on results and actions that come from the offices. We know your office is functioning and is overwhelmed with clients.

As far as law enforcement and regulatory agencies, both CNMI and federal, if you make a list of all of the abuses, corrupt acts and crimes that have occurred in the CNMI for the last 3 decades and put those in two columns - those that have been prosecuted and those that have been ignored - then the ignored list will be way longer. It may even be pages longer. This will be especially true if you list each wage theft act separately.

In the end, all that matters to targets of discrimination, and the victims of injustice and crimes is whether they or not they were made whole and if justice was served. In the CNMI too many times the answer is no. No person should file an EEOC or labor complaint and have to wait for 2 or 3 years for the investigation and/or action because investigators are "off-island". No labor cases should be dismissed because there has been no enforcement of the Administrative Order. No person should be assaulted by a police officer and have to suffer while the assailant isn't even arrested. And on and on and on and on.

I agree with It's Not Your Money. I don't know what GCFA is talking about when he says, "Wendy's referrals" .

Anonymous said...

Wendy said, "In the end, all that matters to targets of discrimination, and the victims of injustice and crimes is whether they or not they were made whole and if justice was served." Exactly! The results are what matter and the CNMI and thee feds have failed.

Anonymous said...

Wendy, didn't you do some sort of report in the 1990s? I believe a copy was sent to Allen P. Stayman when he was at Interior, who sent a copy to DoL and DoJ for action.

Wendy Doromal said...

In the 1990s I wrote a 1993 report, a 1994 report, Senate Hearing testimony in 1995 (I was a witness at the Senate Hearing) and was primary author of a 1998 report. From the 1980's, I also wrote hundreds of letters to officials detailing concerns. Some reports, written testimony and letters are on the right sidebar and other are not posted. It is interesting to see what action was taken on recommendations (like establishment of the ombudsman office) and what was not. All reports were submitted to the CNMi and federal government agencies and leaders. Most were also shared with foreign governments and NGOs.

Wendy Doromal said...

In the 1990s I wrote a 1993 report, a 1994 report, Senate Hearing testimony in 1995 (I was a witness at the Senate Hearing) and was primary author of a 1998 report. From the 1980's, I also wrote hundreds of letters to officials detailing concerns. Some reports, written testimony and letters are on the right sidebar; some others are not posted. It is interesting to see what action was taken on recommendations (like establishment of the ombudsman office) and what was not. All reports were submitted to the CNMI and federal government agencies and leaders. Many were also shared with foreign governments and NGOs.