May 30, 2012
I not only supported, but I advocated for the federal takeover of the CNMI's failed immigration system believing that it would provide long overdue justice and status for the legal, long-term foreign workers. After the CNRA was signed, I was certain that a fair and democratic guest worker program that reflected the values of our country would be implemented, thus putting an end to decades of abuses and unimaginable suffering. I imagined a stronger federal presence in the CNMI with adequately funded and fully staffed federal offices that would ensure that decades of federal neglect would be history. I envisioned the replacement of the CNMI's corrupt and unjust guest worker program with an effective federal program that would guarantee justice for thousands of cheated and abused foreign workers.
I feel duped. Years after the CNRA was signed into law, neither justice nor status has been realized for the long suffering foreign workers of the CNMI. I stand in disgust and disbelief at the manipulation of the intent of the CNRA, the haphazard and irresponsible way that the CNMI-only Guest Worker Program was implemented and is being run, and the many serious and persistent problems that will only continue to multiply until basic steps are taken to correct them.
The USCIS CNMI Office is understaffed. CW permit applications are being processed in the mainland at turtle pace. Biometric processing is slow due to lack of manpower. Nearly eight months after the final rule went into effect, a meager percentage of the total foreign worker applications has been processed creating uncertainty and hardship for guest workers and their employers.
The U.S. Congress has failed to hold regular oversight hearings to monitor the progress of the implementation of the law or to even introduce a bill that would provide well-deserved U.S. status (permanent residency) for all of the legal, long-term foreign workers of the CNMI. Instead a discriminatory bill that proposes a second-class citizen status that includes disenfranchisement and restricted travel for only 1/4 of the total legal, long-term foreign workers was introduced in the U.S. House. It has not been heard and would face hearings in the Senate if it is ever acted upon.
The U.S. Department of Interior's Office of Insular Affairs Office circumvented the intent of the CNRA by issuing a wishy-washy recommendation for status and failing to follow up to ensure that the legal, long-term foreign workers had their status upgraded.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security instituted a Final Rule that failed to adequately serve the needs of the foreign workers, the businesses or the community at large.
I am overwhelmed by the sheer lack of coordination and the minimal amount of effort that has been exerted by the federal agencies who were mandated to establish a workable, just and democratic guest worker program. Some have said that the CNMI-only Guest Worker Program could serve as a model for a reformed U.S. guest worker program. It can serve only as a model of what not to do and how not to do it.
Responses to letters that I have written to federal officials and departments concerning the CNMI-only Guest Worker Program indicate ignorance on the part of the respondents (as in they do not even understand their role in the transition or that they even had a role!) pathetic excuses, or absolute misinformation. If people's well being and very lives were not at stake, the absurdity of many of the responses could even be considered humorous.
Yesterday Judge Ramona Manglona of the U.S. District Court of the NMI ruled on the case of the foreign workers and business owners (Geraldo DeGuzman et al) who are suing Janet Napolitano and other U.S. officials for the failed CNMI-only Guest Worker Program. The judge ruled exactly as the plaintiffs requested –– that the complaint be dismissed without prejudice and the plaintiffs be granted leave to amend their complaint within 120 days.
I wholeheartedly agree with the statements in the Plaintiff's Response to the Motion to Dismiss:
Far from establishing a smooth, orderly, efficient, effective, coherent, rational and predictable set of polices, procedures, and practices to integrate the CNMI into the U.S.
immigration system with a minimum of disruption to the lives of persons residing in the
Commonwealth, protective and solicitous of the economic welfare of the community, as Congress intended, the acts and omissions of Defendants and others within the United States Government have created virtual chaos – confusion, fear, uncertainty, doubt, delay, injustice, unpredictability, irrationality, and a steadily eroding economic situation in the CNMI with a growing exodus of both citizens and aliens who have given up on the future of the islands.
Six months after expiration of the initial two-year transition period conferring lawful status on aliens present in the CNMI based on prior lawful status pursuant to CNMI immigration law, many aliens’ lawful status during that period remains unsettled. Aliens denied the benefits of that transition period have been provided no remedy for loss of the opportunity Congress intended that they have. Countless aliens have been inappropriately placed in removal proceedings and some of them wrongfully removed.
The new parole-in-place policies announced by USCIS on the eve of hearing of Plaintiffs motion for preliminary injunction, cited favorably by the Court in its Opinion and Order Denying Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction,1 Order at 14 n.4, and earlier announced parole-in-place policies as well, have fallen far short of their apparent promise.
Plaintiffs and counsel have witnessed and heard of numerous denials that appear arbitrary, capricious, and irrational, and at times to interfere with the fundamental right of marriage and invade the constitutionally protected right to privacy. To an unsettling degree, applications for parole-in-place appear to be being used to form the basis for ICE enforcement actions and triggering removal proceedings.Policies set in the nation’s capitol regarding enforcement priorities and proper treatment of non-priority aliens are disregarded with virtual insubordination by Department of Homeland Security operatives in or for the CNMI in favor of exclusion and removal rather than the inclusion Congress intended in the CNRA.Regardless of the final outcome of this case, I hope that it grabs the attention of federal officials, the national media and mainland advocates. An effective guest worker program has to be properly coordinated, funded and designed to benefit all concerned parties. The Federal Government should be working to correct the missteps that they made in implementing the CNRA instead of defending it. The U.S Congress needs to introduce and pass legislation that would grant permanent residency to the legal, long-term foreign workers (those who have legally lived and worked in the CNMI 5 or more years).
Read the Plaintiffs' Response to the Motion to Dismiss:
The U.S.A's Motion to Dismiss: