June 14, 2012
There is no such thing as part freedom.
Marianas Variety editor Zaldy Dandan got it really wrong in his latest defensive of Congressman Sablan and his inferior proposal for status. He discusses Sablan's H.R 1466 like it is a "good thing". For whom? For the only 1/4 of the total CNMI LEGAL, long-term foreign workers that it includes? How about the 3/4 left out for no other reason than they failed to get married, failed to have a child while working in the CNMI? The bill totally excluded them!
Is it a good thing that the stateless children and the CNMI permanent workers be given an inferior status and not permanent residency with a pathway to citizenship?
Zaldy calls H.R. 1466 "merely a proposal", but it is a bill that was introduced and Sablan has continued to defend and campaign for its passage. I was told that the bill will not pass. I am glad for that because it not only excludes the MAJORITY of the LEGAL, long-term foreign workers, but it provides for an inferior status for those included –one that would create a new immigration category under the INA; one that shamefully mirrors the post-Civil War Black Codes.
All categories of legal CNMI aliens mentioned in H.R. 1466 and ALL legal, long-term foreign workers (not just those with U.S. citizen immediate relatives) must be granted permanent residency status. H.R. 1466 falls short of being a decent status bill. I am encouraged that this is being acknowledged and we can expect that a proper bill will be introduced.
After Zaldy expressed that it was unlikely that the bill would pass, he stated:
"So why be upset about not getting something that doesn’t even exist? Guest workers with U.S. citizen children, in any case, will be petitioned once their kids reach 21 (and are able to meet the other requirements). And although the transition period ends in 2014, it may be extended. In fact, an extension — the least politically problematic “solution” to the CNMI’s undisputed need for guest workers — is the most likely outcome. And if not? Then we move on. We return to the P.I. or seek a new job in another country. Padayon. Padayunon ang pagpangita. Life continues."Why be worried? Why be upset? Because many of the legal, long-term foreign workers have no home to return to! Some of the Chinese workers have more than one U.S. citizen child and would be charged huge fines for having more than one child if they had to return to China. Some others have no employment opportunities, no property and no family or support system in their former homelands. More importantly, most of the CNMI's legal, long-term foreign workers do not have a U.S. citizen spouse or child! It is interesting that the majority of the legal, foreign workers left out of the bill –those without a U.S. citizen spouse or child– were not even mentioned in this editorial.
There is nothing in the CNRA that states that a status bill has to come from the CNMI Delegate. It is obvious that a bill that would include all legal, long-term foreign workers and would reflect American principles and provide justice for the workers will in fact, not come from a CNMI Delegate, but will come from other congressional members. Sablan made it clear that he wants the majority of the workers "to go home so that my people" can have a job. He and a staff member both stated that to draft a bill for permanent residency would be "political suicide". Sablan will never ask for the status of permanent residency for all legal, long-term foreign workers because he knows "his people" and the CNMI leaders want to maintain the status quo and the un-American two-tiered society.
Another misleading comment in the editorial:
In the CNMI’s case, railing against “slavery” or “apartheid” has antagonized what could have been the most important ally in the guest workers’ campaign for improved status: the local people. (Sometimes I wonder what the victims or the descendants of those who experienced the evils of slavery or apartheid would say if they were told that their unspeakable ordeal is comparable to that of a CNMI foreign worker who has yet to receive his salary.)I am not alone in saying that H.R. 1466 is apartheid-like. In fact, even a federal official agreed. Apartheid is defined as, "A policy or practice of separating or segregating groups." H.R. 1466 absolutely fits this definition. The status within H.R. 1466 would restrict travel and disenfranchise the affected foreign workers and perpetuate the class system that has existed for decades in the CNMI. How is that an American and democratic status? It is not. It is an apartheid-like status.
I know no one who equated H.R. 1466 with slavery. The bill mirrors the post-civil War Black Codes. But just for argument's sake regarding slavery, one would not have to ask the descendants of those who experienced the evils of slavery or apartheid, one could merely ask some of the CNMI foreign workers who have documented cases of slavery, including a Bangladeshi male and a Chinese female who were recruited to the CNMI and kept as slaves.
The CNMI system was corrupt and problematic and had to end. The federal guest worker program has turned out to be ineffective. An extension of a poorly executed federal program is not the solution. Such a move would only extend the uncertainty and continue the problems. The only way that the foreign workers should be reduced to zero by 2014 is by providing all of the legal, long-term foreign workers permanent residency so they are no longer foreign workers.
Zaldy speaks of status as though it is strictly a political issue. It is not. People should not be regarded political pawns. This is far more than a political issue. It is a moral and ethical issue. It is an issue of justice and human rights. It is an issue that will impact the reputation of the United States. Thankfully, there are people in power who recognize this.