BELIEVE: On Status for CNMI Legal, Long-term Workers

May 16, 2012

"Don’t let them tell you that change isn’t possible. It’s just hard, that’s all. You know, this country was founded on a tough, difficult idea — 13 colonies deciding to break off from the most powerful empire on Earth, and then drafting a document — a Declaration of Independence that embodied ideas that had never been tried before: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” That’s not an easy idea. And it had to be fought for, inch by inch, year by year.

The journey we began together was about building a movement for change that endures. It’s about understanding that in America anything is possible if we’re willing to work for it and fight for it, and most of all, believe in it. I need you to keep fighting. I need you to keep working. And I need you to keep believing.” President Barack Obama, 2010

The debate about status for the legal, long-term foreign workers of the CNMI rages on even as the majority of the foreign workers seem to have retreated to the shadows in silence.

A Marianas Variety letter to the editor from Sid Kani suggests that Rabby Syed was giving bad advice to the legal, long-term foreign workers.  Firstly, Sid and every other critic should understand that any opinion, advice, recommendation, or suggestions is filtered by the listeners. Every legal, long-term foreign worker is intelligent enough to be able to decide what opinion or advice they want to believe, follow or promote. All legal, long-term foreign workers have the freedom to affiliate with any person or group of their choosing.

Mr. Kani said:
Rabby Syed I do not understand what it that you do not understand about U.S. immigration law. That law has been in existence for more than 50 years and will not be amended by the U.S. Congress just to give elevated immigration status to the 22,417 legal foreign workers in the CNMI. What about the 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.? Why would the U.S. Congress be interested in the 22,417 foreign workers in the commonwealth who are not paying taxes to the U.S. government for all the years they have lived in the CNMI? Please stop lying to the good foreign workers!
Yes, the U.S. Congress can and should give all of the legal, long-term foreign workers who have worked and lived in the CNMI for 5 or more years permanent residency. Yes, there has been precedence for passing such a bill, as was witnessed previously in the Virgin Islands. Yes, there is a vast difference between under 20,000 legal, long-term foreign workers of the CNMI and the 11 million undocumented or illegal aliens in the United States!

As for taxes, the residents of the CNMI also do not pay federal taxes! However, all of the legal foreign contract workers have paid local taxes and have also paid for work permits and numerous other fees that have bolstered the CNMI's coffers.

Mr. Kani said:
Rabby Syed on the issue of U.S. labor unions working to elevate the immigration status of legal foreign workers in the CNMI — do you really think they will help the foreign workers in the CNMI and forget about the unemployed U.S. workers? Please stop lying to the hard-working foreign workers in the CNMI just so that they can help pay for your airline tickets to travel to the U.S.

Moreover, all workers in the United States of America who are union members are required to pay membership fees. You are outright lying to all the foreign workers in the CNMI when you say the U.S. labor unions can and will represent them in fighting for elevated immigration status. Your action continues to give high hopes to the foreign workers in the CNMI but you know well enough that improved immigration status for them will never happen.
I am an active member of my local union, its affiliates and the AFL-CIO. I have participated in state and national conventions as an elected delegate. I am the union representative at my work-site and have served on the Board of Directors, on state committees and the local bargaining team. I have been approached many times by non-union members requesting advice. I am not permitted to give non-union members advice – not just because they do not pay union dues, but because of legal issues that could arise. I do not know of any labor union that supports non-members. However, many national unions support causes that are related to human rights, civil rights or social justice issues. Major unions are politically vocal and take stands on many important issues, including immigration issues.

Mr. Kani said:
Please keep in mind that if the good Congressman Kilili’s bill to give special immigration status to long-term foreign workers in the CNMI was killed on arrival, then your hopes in working with labor unions in the U.S. who are representing U.S. workers are out of touch. Stop giving high hope because you do not have authority or power to do so!
H.R. 1466 is a flawed bill. It is a controversial bill and if it passes the U.S. House there will be hearings in the Senate that could result in changes.  It was not killed because it did not come up for a vote. It does not propose any "special" status. It proposed an apartheid-type status for only 1/4 of the total foreign worker population and it three the remaining 3/4 under the bus. It is discriminatory, and, as some attorneys I have consulted concur, it is most likely unconstitutional. The only hope HR 1422 offers is hope for those with a U.S. citizen spouse or child to stay in the CNMI with a status akin to a step under slavery with restricted travel, disenfranchisement, restricted employment opportunities until their petitioning U.S. relative upgrades their status.

It is wrong to say that no one has the power or authority to offer hope. Actually no one has the power or authority to tell another person that he/she should not promote hope, cling to hope, share hope or inspire hope! Hope is free and it belongs to every one, including, and perhaps especially, the downtrodden, suppressed and disenfranchised. Hope was an essential element behind every great social movement our nation has experienced. Hope inspired freedom for the slaves, the womens' right to vote, and the passage of civil rights legislation. Hope will always inspire immigrants and foreign workers to continue to fight until they receive the justice and basic rights that they deserve.

Mr. Kani said:
The CNMI is U.S. soil so all legal foreign workers must line up and apply for improved immigration status. Long-term foreign workers must submit and pay for their applications for green card, and later they must take and pass the history tests administered by a court of law to become U.S. citizens.
The legal, long-term foreign workers of the CNMI  have been in line longer than most of the long-term alien workers in the mainland stood in line to get the green cards that they now hold in their hands. Many of them have lived and worked on U.S. soil in the CNMI for 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 or more years! Many of them stood in line longer than the Chamorro and Carolinians of the CNMI who were handed U.S. citizenship without ever standing in line, without taking a test, without paying any application or processing fees, without a survey of the U.S. population to determine if the citizens wanted them to join the American family (as was done through the CNMI Senate hearings held with the intent of convincing the U.S. Congress to keep those workers disposable and denied of basic rights.)

The fact is that most of the CNMI foreign workers do not, and will not qualify for green cards under the current flawed system. If they did qualify, I am certain that the foreign workers would be happy to pay for their upgraded status.

Mr. Kani said:
Rabby Syed this is not hard to understand. Stop lying and stop giving hopes on something that you cannot achieve! If your friend Wendy Doromal cannot do it, how can you?
I have not given up on fighting for justice or permanent residency status for the legal, long-term foreign workers. I have never stopped writing letters to, corresponding with and meeting with people who have the power to enact change or push for justice.  In June I will be in Washington, DC for five days to meet with U.S. officials and some social justice and human rights organizations.  

The theme of Barack Obama's campaign is "forward". We too must move forward to advance the cause for justice and freedom for the CNMI's legal, long-term foreign workers. All of the foreign workers who want justice and status must continue to speak up.

We will be voting in a new U.S. Congress this year. Hopefully, the new members will be working to move our country's policies forward. As far as immigration is concerned, we must never go back to the post-Civil War laws and policies where we condoned an established and legally recognized two-tiered society. Those who support democracy, justice and American values must say, "No!" to the establishment of American Apartheid; "No!" to endorsing a society of the haves and have nots; "No!" to the legal establishment of an elite and lower class and "No!" to maintaining a locality on U.S. soil where the majority of the adult population is disenfranchised. We must not stop working to amend H.R. 1466 or to push for democratic and just substitute legislation that reflects the principles upon which our country was founded. (Read more at this post.)

No advocate or foreign worker has the power to upgrade the status of the legal, long-term foreign workers. Only the U.S. Congress has that power. Still, supportive citizens and the disenfranchised workers have the power to appeal, speak out, petition, rally, write to the members of the U.S. Congress, and educate the American public and voters.

As always, I am offering to hand deliver any email or written messages to the members of the U.S. Congress and other officials from the foreign workers. I will be in Washington DC from June 9th to the 14th. Send any letters or appeals to 


Anonymous said...

It is time to GET LOUD AND WAKE UP kababayan and all OCWs. Can we wait for rights to be handed to us? Justice has been absent long time. we need justice now or it's to late for us all ready. Thanks ma'm. we'll be making a letter for you to bring for us. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Ma'am Wendy and Rabby
I send my thank to you for helping us to get status. God bless.

Anonymous said...

So true. Personal responsibility is an essential character trait. No one is making any one else 'hope' or fight for status. People know what is universally right and they are drawn to it. Persons who oppose universal rights have selfish motives that are usually financial. Why do you think so many residents and the politicians don't support green cards for all NMI OCWs? Because they think they could lose the power and money.

Anonymous said...

we dont need green card,we need legimate employers,not crook employer,some employer are taking advantage just to make money from employees for status, need to dismantle business consfiracy....

Anonymous said...

A long time ago there was a union in the NMI and it made a difference for the workers who belonged to it. There is no union in the NMI that I know of. Guest workers sure could use a union to protect their jobs and rights.They should organize a union here under an existing one in the U.S. God knows the nurses could have been helped by a strong union.

Anonymous said...

Sid Kani is and has always been an ignoramous and no one would take his poorly written letter seriously. I suspect he is throwing his hat in the GOP House arena, thus this racist letter from out of of the blue.

But that still doesn't help workers. The GOP will still hold the US House after the elections and the Dems will have the Senate and President.

The CW program. H-visa eligibility, and improved status for many has been ongoing so I can't agree that all not recieving green cards were wronged. The numbers of Businesses and CW employers was an admission of guilt for the old broken system. Justice was a point of federalization and it is slowly working here on many levels, but justice hasn't been fooled by so many immigration fraudsters. 2014 will be here soon and the business scammers are already starting to liquidate. Their exit will open some opportunity for young citizens, for both children of CGWs and local citizens...hooray!!

Anonymous said...

time is coming to an many CWs are not actually employed and how many requests for parole are being denied. DHS is not going to let people sit and wait, 'hoping' something is done for them. The CNMI cannot afford non employed non citizen foreign nationals sitting here hoping something is done while they are not in posession of a status. Claiming they lived here 20 30 yrs is the truth but it is also the truth that many here less than 5 yrs have been told no by USCIS or are violating the status they did get and they need to go. Law is the law and like it or not comply with it. Stating that the old CNMI system didn't follow the law doesn't mean a hill of beans now. the US immigration law is here. It isn't only to be followed when it benefits someone it is to be followed period. Soooo much fraud and abuse now. this time not by the CNMI government but by those hoping to scam the system. And yes DHS is well aware of this and those who are facilitating this in the CNMI just look at the federal prosecutions for immigration violations and the increasing number of people being deported. if you have no status and are not eligible better to go on your own or have DHS pick you up. can't afford to go, go see USCIS/ICE and tell em you need a ticket home I am sure they will assist you getting there..........

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 10:36 Or the US Congress could give the legal longterm workers, CNMI permanent residents and other de facto citizens green cards and SET THEM FREE. If they have no jobs in the CNMI they would leave.

Anonymous said...

...and go where? Most have absolutely no money, no savings, nothing. Where would they go? New York? The anon above is right. Interesting how fighting for Federalization and getting it will facilitate deportations.

Anonymous said...

Wendy, coulda, woulda, shoulda is all a roll of the dice. Congress isn't even picking up the dice and has no plans on picking up the immigration dice to decide whether or not to roll it. So what that means is the here and now has to be dealt with. There is no "green card" bill that is being acted on, no sign their will be in the near future and most folks wise on the matter say odds are low there ever will be in the foreseeable future. People aren't going to be allowed to wait on the island on some far off hope. As they used to say in the bars of my youth at closning time, 'you ain't gotta go home but you can't stay here' Time to leave if you don't have a status......if you do it expires in a year and better have a plan then as everyone knows what is coming....

Anonymous said...

I would like to comment on an earlier anon comment: "Law is the law and like it or not comply with it. Stating that the old CNMI system didn't follow the law doesn't mean a hill of beans now. the US immigration law is here."

This is actually incorrect. It actually helps establish a basis for a constitutional attack (substantive due process) on the implementation of the law that federalized CNMI immigration. It is also the reason courts are likely to grant humanitarian parole to a lot of the contract workers despite clear violations of the federalization law. These people were allowed put down roots and establish families despite the "temporary" work permits they held.

Anonymous said...

"These people were allowed put down roots and establish families despite the "temporary" work permits they held."

No. It makes no difference what the CNMI law allowed. That is a moot issue that Wendy has stated many, many times on this very website. Federal Law preempts ALL CNMI immigration law and any consequences that it had. You assume too much.

Anonymous said...

please stop fighting guys,,are u guys human being ? willingly to help other human being then pls stop acting please do it then you go as a truly human being.GOD give you everything please try or do share with others...thats call close to GOD as a being a human...if u have good life share it with poor people...give,take,forgive,share its part of being a good human...
hate,jealous,selfish,killing innocent,war,terrorism its a part of to being devil...please guys think about it...pls stop acting and just do it...GOD knows everything....please being a human...amen

Anonymous said...

"Federal Law preempts ALL CNMI immigration law and any consequences that it had. You assume too much."

Yes, federal law pre-empts pre-existing CNMI immigration law. That much is true. It does not necessarily pre-empt all consequences.

This is new territory for U.S. courts and immigration law. When else in the modern era did the Federal government essentially take over immigration from an area that had independently controlled immigration up until that point. It hasn't. Thus, although the text of the statute may be clear the course the courts decide to take may not be so clear cut when the Constitution is taken into consideration. Remember that the Constitution rules supreme over the text of a statute.

The aliens were here before U.S. federal immigration law took over. Although aliens-in-name under both CNMI and U.S. immigration law, were they really all aliens-in-fact under CNMI law or were they the equivalent of permanent residents? How exactly did CNMI immigration law treat the aliens? What exactly is their true status? These are questions the courts will need to decide for each individual on a case-by-case basis. Certain individuals will have a more clear status than others. Some aliens have been here since the 1970's. They are parents and grandparents of children born here in the CNMI. They are essentially permanent residents despite the label "contract worker." Others arrived in 2007. They will almost certainly be considered temporary residents.

At a certain point in time, someone will challenge the underlying validity of the law along those lines. And the Supreme Court will eventually decide who is right. That is, unless somehow, someway, Congress is convinced to act more quickly.

Anonymous said...

You sound exactly like a partner in one of those "Immigration" law firms advertising for "Green Card" assistance. I was thinking Woodruff but you are too articulate. I seriously doubt that each alien will be heard on a case by case basis. No way, no how. When the Feds took over CNMI immigration was there was no decision made on case by case anything. It was blanket law laid down, period. USCIS issued a warning about scam lawyers trying to make their last buck off of thousands of hopeful alien CWs. Peddle it somewhere else.

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 12:08

Anonymous 10:10 sounds exactly right to me. Every person has a right to be heard individually if they are subject to deportation. That is the law.

Isn't the blog owner the only person who can say, "Peddle it somewhere else?"

Anonymous said...

A blanket law still does not trump the Constitution. Federal Courts have ruled over and over that deportation proceedings must adhere to constitutional procedural due process requirements and that aliens subject to deportation proceedings are entitled to a fair hearing. Thus, deportations really will be handled on a case-by-case basis by the Dept. of Justice (Immigration Court is actually an administrative agency process in the DOJ).

There is a valid challenge to the statute based on the Constitution and we are now waiting for the right case to come along and for that person to have the resolve to make the challenge.

I am not an immigration lawyer nor am I associated with anyone practicing in that field right now. I have no intention of going into that line of work. I just call it as I see it.

Anonymous said...

immigration court has ruled that federal immigration law trumps cnmi law, board of immigration appeals has dismissed appeals of the Immigration judge's order.
9th CC of appeals has been reviewing the few cases that have been sent up and has made a decision affirming the BIA decision's to date......problem is immigration lawyers here discount the consequences of the individual cases for the overall big picture of aliens....all to the determent of their clients stuck in jail.......

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 12:37: but what kinds of cases are those? My understanding is that most of the cases thus far are felons and other high risk individuals. Have they been the people here 25 years, with kids and grandkids born in the CNMI and who are U.S. citizens.