Same Defenders of Status Quo

July 30, 2012

The same defenders of the maintaining the status quo of the CNMI's nonresident workers are on their soap boxes once again. The Saipan Chamber of Commerce and the Hotel Administration of the Northern Mariana Islands are both calling for an extension of the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker Program.

A July 19, 2012 letter from the Saipan Chamber of Commerce (SCC) to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano requests that she persuade the Secretary of Labor to extend the transitional period another five years. The letter reads in part:
The SCC views the additional transition period as absolutely necessary to prevent a collapse of our CNMI economy. Our tourism industry cannot survive without available and qualified human resources, and the islands’ businesses have not totally adjusted to a consumer base decimated by the elimination of our apparel industry three years past. The CNMI population has dropped over 25% since 2005. 
The initial five year transition period, where 11,737 CW-1 visa applications have been received by USCIS for temporary foreign national employment within the CNMI only, has been demonstrated as simply not enough time to phase-out those 11,737 CW-1 visa foreign national employees by replacing them with U.S. citizens and/or residents by December 2014. 
There simply are not enough eligible, trained and qualified U.S. residents available in the CNMI to replace those CW-1 visa holders by the end of 2014. Regardless of USCIS issued H visas and other professional employment visas issued in the CNMI in the future, the CW-1 visa category established by the CNRA for use within the established transitional period ending December 2014, cannot justifiably be ended until there are people to replace the issued CW-1 visas.
Nick Nishikawa, Chairman of the Hotel Association also claims that the CNMI needs more time to train residents workers."

The truth is that the CNMI will always need more time!  That is because there will not be enough "local" or "resident" workers to replace the skilled nonresident workers in 2 years, or in 5 years, or even in 10 years. Even if 16,000 residents could be trained, there will never be enough local workers that are willing to accept low-paying jobs that involve hard labor or high level skills. Where on U.S. soil do you see advertisements for  architects, nurses or other skilled laborers that offer hourly wages of $5.05 to $8.00? The same $5.05 is offered to clerks, waitresses and other low entry jobs that require little training. The honest truth is that these business leaders want to keep wages low to increase their profit. They are, and have always been, first and foremost interested in their personal economic state rather than the economic state of the CNMI. None give a damn about the serious poverty of the foreign workers and their families and the fact that they are perpetually stuck in that state under the transitional worker program.

The members of the SCC and HAMNI are business owners and leaders. Why haven't they trained and hired resident workers over the last three decades? What stopped them?  If they could not accomplish training a local workforce to accept thousands of entry level jobs that require mere on-the-job training over the last three decades, then what makes anyone think that will they take the initiative after an extension? Could it be that the residents want only the high-paying government jobs that require little effort? Could it be many residents feel living on federal handouts beats working for $5.05 hourly? Could it be that the business owners like the skilled, obedient foreign workers who have a high level work ethic? Could it be that some of the business owners like having the foreign workers because it is easier to steal wages from them?

There is absolutely no need to extend this program, and certainly not for five more years. Again, a stable, trained and qualified workforce would be ensured if the Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress There is absolutely no need to extend this program, and certainly not for five years. Again, a stable, trained and qualified workforce would be ensured if the Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress would finally take the only right and humane step and ensure permanent residency status for every legal, long-term foreign worker who has worked five or more years in the CNMI. Granting permanent residency to the qualifying long-term foreign workers would end the uncertainty and confusion. It would end several more years of fees, the problems and delays with applications, the confusion with visas and travel, and the constant toying with people’s lives, not to mention the expense of running the program.

An extension may sound like an acceptable idea to members of Congress or agency bureaucrats who do not want to deal with the status issue or the work involved in applying the INA to the islands. However, the truth is that the majority of these officials have little knowledge of the dark history of the CNMI guest worker program and have no idea that the majority of the foreign workers have lived and worked legally in the CNMI for years and even decades. The majority of these federal officials do not know that a huge number of these legal foreign workers have suffered documented wage theft while working under the U.S. flag and have never been made whole. There is nothing acceptable about extending a program that offers no chance ever for U.S. status when the majority of the affected individuals and their immediate family members, including their U.S. citizen children, have no other home but their home under the U.S. flag in the CNMI.

While the CNMI officials and business leaders desperately need the foreign workers, many selfishly want them to remain only as a disenfranchised and oppressed underclass. Under this federal program employers can and will continue to cheat the foreign workers, deny them basic civil, political, and human rights, and keep them under their feet. For example, under the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker Program the employer is required to pay the CW-1 application fees. However, just like under the old CNMI system, employers tell their foreign workers, if they want a job they must pay all of the related application fees. None will complain because they want to keep their jobs and stay in the CNMI, which has become their home. An extension will continue the injustices for five more years. The true shame is that now the wage theft, exploitation and other injustices occurring under a federally run program. To extend the program will be to extend the shame.

We must recognize that extending and perpetuating a federal CNMI-Only Transitional Worker Program will not effectively solve the CNMI’s economic woes or ensure a stable workforce in the CNMI. The CNRA’s intent was to apply the existing federal immigration laws to the CNMI. There should be no rush to extend this program. The rush should be to correct the program’s problems, push permanent residency status for the legal, long-term foreign workers, and start work immediately on applying the INA to the CNMI after the December 2014 deadline.

Read the SCC letter:


Anonymous said...

Wendy, maybe this time they will now start training the resident workforce whether they like it or not but I doubt. They are only asking extension to horse around then wait for the next event or maybe a few will start the preparation and wait the final 5 yrs.
But the gov't? always the same as usual wait for the worst and then when the worst come... look for a scapegoat why they failed again even-though there are lots of money to collect from the CWs' renewal from this extension - Melberlin

captain said...

This is ridiculous to extend this CW status.
I hope that someone in the US wakes up and puts a stop to this foolishness.
If this is extended again this in itself will be a major contributing factor in the further downfall of the NMI, As stated will just further the status Quo.

Nothing will change as long as this present situation is left as is as has been the predictable actions of the elected and connected in the NMI concerning any adverse situation, they will do nothing until after the fact and are literally pushed into some kind of action.
Look around at the so many problems today due to inaction that NOW have these clowns scurrying like rats off a sinking ship with no direction or idea of what to do.
I agree with your article Wendy, it is time for the CW to make a stand.
Until they do, nothing will happen even with the US Govt.
Give the the ones that have been here for five years prior to the Fed take over legal status or let the ones that qualify to be here under the various other "H" and "B" visa and any other current options that are available to them.
Most of these that are put under the present CW status should not be under that anyway.
Maybe this coming year they will not be allowed to be put under the CW-1 status and will have to be put under the correct status.

Another thing though will be just how many of the "scam" business that will not be able to qualify under the Feds. and will be leaving and how many workers will that affect?

Anonymous said...

simple arithmetic....5 years extensions means another 5 years of $150.00 collection from each CW's being process... a good source of income.

Anonymous said...

We are giving again a five years extension to employers to screw up and exploit cw. CNMI govt never protect cw nor small businesses in promulgating all the regulation that are implemented now. See what the USCIS doing in our economy.

Anonymous said...

SCC & HANMI a stamp pad of Benigno Repeki Fitial

Anonymous said...

Additional 5 more years to extend the CW program is a farce. It is time to adjust the righfully eligible workers to improved status. The reason of lack of qualified local workers is a bad reasoning just to prolong the agony of the alien workers and increase the profits of the wily businessmen and pockets of politicos. Let go of the CW program so the true picture of the status of the CNMI will show.

Anonymous said...

I guest there are lots of American LAWYERS here in SAIPAN who have been making a lot of money specially with 'LABOR CASE' Mostly Employers abusing employees by not paying employees on time sometimes for months, illegal deductions, underpayments and many more violations of labor LAWS. I think THEY can do something about what's going on here and they know that these things should not happen here in US soil or US Territory . To think that they are American Lawyers who know better about LAWS and REGULATIONS. I may be wrong and i'm sorry if I am.

Anonymous said...

Nothing could be more right Wendy! Extending the CW program will not change anything, there should be a more permanent solution to keep us back on a more stable foot to start making progress to this beautiful island again.

It's not your money! said...

Hello again Wendy,

I don't mean to beat a dead horse, but I disagree with you on extending the transition period.

Before your readers start replying with righteous indignation, let me say (as you know already) that I am for a more permanent solution, both in the form of meaningful immigration reform AND for status for legal, longterm workers who continue to fill jobs that US-citizen workers will not or cannot do.

On immigration reform, I think employers should be responsible for helping alien workers become citizens within five years of their recruitment.

On status, it's clear that longterm, legal workers who are still needed by the economy should also be given citizenship. Some workers should also be given the opportunity to petition for green cards even if they are no longer employable, just like T and U visas for victims of crimes.

However, IN THE ABSENCE OF MEANINGFUL IMMIGRATION REFORM OR AN IMPROVED STATUS BILL, the transition period must be extended, or it means the death of the CNMI economy, and no jobs for anyone. Everyone goes back. I sincerely think its irresponsible to oppose an extension of the TP and thereby deny businesses the workers they need simply because of Congressional inaction. Not all businessmen and women are evil, greedy bastards. They too have been placed in a difficult situation, because they are now just as dependent on foreign workers as foreign workers are on them for jobs. It seems to me that what some of your readers are saying is, "give me improved status or let the CNMI die a slow, lingering death." Is that really what anyone wants?

Thanks for allowing me to comment. sign me up as FOR immigration reform, FOR improved status, BUT in the absence of Congressional action, also FOR an extension of the TP, and continued employment for our foreign brother and sister workers.

Anonymous said...

Well one person that won't be along for the final implosion created by the Fitial administration is Bucky. He's resigning "to spend time with his family." His only son is in Iowa. Now if only a house would fall on him and maybe the flying monkey woman!

Anonymous said...

Instead of a request by SCC, HANMI & CNMI governor BRF to extend a broken federal CNMI guest's worker program for another 5 years, they need to request to US Congress, USDOL, USDHS and USDOI to fix and upgrate the problem of CNRA that placed CNMI under US Immigration system. CNMI can have a strong workforce only if legal alien workers are given an improved immigration status. This is the best solution, CNMI can expect to have to see the changes in economy. Change we believe-President Barak Obama.

Wendy Doromal said...

Hello INYM! Hope all is well with you. I understand what you are saying, but knowing the history and reality, I must disagree.

My point is that he Congress MUST act on status ASAP. A status provision or deadline for one should have been included in the CNRA. The same mistakes can not be repeated over and over. There are over two years before December 14th. To act on an extension at this early date would be an thoughtless, undemocratic act - a way to maintain the status quo and an excuse NOT to act on status. There is more than enough time to grant permanent residency to the legal, long-term foreign workers.

What is irresponsible was to pass the CNRA absent a status provision. What is irresponsible was to create a DOI report that was wishy washy and weak. What is irresponsible is for the Obama Administration to back permanent residency for 11 million undocumented aliens and to take no FIRM position on the same for less than 20,000 LEGAL aliens. What is irresponsible is that the "champions" in the House and Senate who perviously introduced bills that included status have become silent on this issue. Those who promised a status bill would follow the passage of the CNRA were obviously either slick liars, uninformed or have failed to work to make it happen. Some of those who promised are in a position to make it happen and yet they play political games. There is no longer time for excuses, games, lies, or delays -the U.S. Congress MUST act immediately on granting a permanent residency status to ALL legal long-term foreign workers. It is not true that they cannot act. They do not want to do their jobs. They do not want to do the right thing.

Of course there are some good employers. Unfortunately even there are too many who take advantage of the foreign workers. There are too many that are 'good" in most ways, but that still insisted that the foreign workers pay their own fees for CW applications. The whole situation borders on evil and it is unacceptable that now it is happening under the federal name.

For most of the foreign workers, the slow lingering death that you speak of has been going on for years; some have experienced it for decades. It is time the U.S. stop the insanity and give these people basic rights and civil liberties. I cannot and will not change my position.

Wendy Doromal said...

3:12 I am sure there will be a steady exodus of state-siders who leave the ship before it hits the bottom. Despite who replaces him, it seems unlikely that there could be a person who is a worse Attorney General. He certainly has left a mark...

Anonymous said...

2;53 PM
The CNMI is dying simply because of the incompetent Leaders. Yes, they know little so they DEPEND on consultancy and advisers spending thousands of dollars for nothing. Extending the transition for 5 years will only slowdown the sure death of Saipan and I'm very sorry about that. It's better if they sit on the table and see whose IDEA can possibly solve a problem regardless of political parties and they must do it now before it's too late. GOD BLESS CNMI.

Anonymous said...

its an nonsense by USCIS/federal government as well as USA congrass and CNMI failed government.they are playing with innocent human being to just make money and send them back.its an poor politics on USA soil.human dignity and human rights are killing innocent human by giving fake hope/dream for money only.its bad to say but it is the real truth.godbless usa. adiossssssssss

the teacher said...

The chamber/hanmi strategy for extending the transition period is simply extending the status quo. They took federalization hard and five year extensions softens the blow.

The claim of needing longer to train is a lie and lies never add up under close examination. In normal workplaces, or even here, no one has long training programs for hotel security, maids, waitresses, housekeeping, drivers, bartenders, and most labor intensive unskilled work. One week is a normal training period for a semi-skilled machine operator in the industrial belt (now rust belt due to the effects of globalization), so how can we keep US citizens here unemployed because the hotels claim they can't find a US citizen to secure the parking lot?

The simple fact is that US citizens in our tourism industry would expect higher wages, they would organize and unionize, and hotel security, front desk, and food and beverage personel would expect 10. an hour and up.

To say otherwise is nothing but a lie.