U.S. Must End Discrimination at CNMI NAP Office

February 24, 2012

CNMI Governor Fitial would deny some U.S. citizen children food stamps based on who their parents are, or more specifically, based on the immigration status of their parents. This is an attack on children, no matter how he attempts to spin it. It is blatantly racist. This proposal that the governor has asked the Food and Nutrition Services Administrator to endorse is despicable and cruel no matter how he attempts to justify it. Could there be a worse violation of human rights than to propose the starvation of children?

But the debate is not just with proposed racist policies at a federally funded office. CNMI Delegate Sablan noted that $4.5 million allocated for the Food Stamp Program had to be “returned” at a time when Fitial had cut food stamp benefits to participants and created a waiting list for those who are eligible because there was not enough funding.  In July 2011 there were about 500 applicants on the waiting list. In May 2012 the food stamp benefits were reduced by 34.6 percent to enable more recipients to receive the benefits.

Acting Governor Inos clarified that the $4.5 million Sablan questions was earmarked only to be used to create an Electronic Benefit Transfer system (EBT) in the CNMI. Inos explained that most of the CNMI stores lacked the basic foundation to support an EBT system; therefore, the $4.5 million was never actually received by the CNMI although it was available. The $4.5 million was not allocated to the CNMI to be used for food stamp benefits so it could not have been “lost” to potential recipients.

The governor has temporarily lifted the austerity hours he had previously imposed on the NAP Office.  For the first time in months, the office is now open on Fridays.

Despite protests from Delegate Sablan and Assistant Secretary of Interior Babauta, the governor insists that he had the authority to subject federally funded employees, including NAP employees, to the four day work weeks that the governor imposed on other CNMI government employees.

The NAP office is now open on Fridays to allow employees "to catch up on the processing of a backlog of 900 food stamp applications.

We can expect that U.S. citizen children with alien parents will be at the bottom of the recipient list if Fitial's racist procedures are followed.

The foreign workers with eligible U.S. citizen children have complained of discrimination at the NAP Office for years. A 2008 Saipan Tribune article reported:
“Some of us have already given up because they give you such a hard time depending on your status” as a foreigner, said a 42-year-old former mechanic from the Philippines who has now waited through more than half of June for the $86 in food stamps he receives each month to feed his two children.

With each visit to the food stamp office, its staff have pushed back the schedule for this meager payment and ordered him to provide a host of papers that the office later lost and demanded again, he said.

Meanwhile, he added, most U.S. citizens “especially those from here, just walk [into the office] and say “Hi” and get paid,” he added.

A 38-year-old Filipino mother of two and former garment factory worker shared a similar story, saying that she has repeatedly received less in food stamps than recipients who are citizens and have the same number of children.

“Local people are receiving more than me but they have the same number of babies that I have,” she said, adding that many citizens who get more food stamps than her also have jobs-a factor that should reduce their payments-while she remains unemployed because of a labor dispute. “This is discrimination. It makes me angry. It makes me sad. People say that locals get more because they are citizens, but my baby is a U.S. citizen. So why are they giving me less?”

Many more foreign workers have reported discriminatory practices among local food stamp offices, including the offices on Tinian and Rota, according to labor activists.
Delegate Sablan is pushing for the CNMI to adopt the federal SNAP Program which would increase the amount of food stamp money given to the CNMI by an estimated $19 million in 2013 and $24 million in 2014. Governor Fitial objects to the CNMI becoming part of the SNAP Program because under the program the CNMI would have to pay for 50% of the administrative costs, which he claims the CNMI could not afford.

The U.S. Government must not allow discrimination against innocent U.S. citizen children at the NAP Office. It is time for federal officials to thoroughly investigate this CNMI office.


Anonymous said...

Attacking the alien workers is bad enough, but promising to starve their children goes far beyond the hatred and racism that Fitial and ignorant racists have promoted here. The citizens of the CNMI should be outraged and must stop this insanity. How far will they go if we don't?

Anonymous said...

“Local people are receiving more than me but they have the same number of babies that I have,”

That about sums it up. Stop having so many babies in a depressed economy. Food Stamps are a gift not a right.