GAO Report: Foreign Workers as Labor Units

September 29, 2012

“To cheapen the lives of any group of men, cheapens the lives of all men, even our own. This is a law of human psychology, or human nature. And it will not be repealed by our wishes, nor will it be merciful to our blindness.” ― William Pickens

GAO issued a report, "Additional DHS Actions Needed on Foreign Worker Permit Program", which focuses on the CNMI economy and needs of business owners.

Lacking in the report is a look or even mention on how the CNMI-Only Guest Worker Program has had extremely adverse effects on the legal, long-term foreign workers of the CNMI.  Then again, the federal government de-humanizes the CNMI foreign contract workers, even as it promotes compassion and leniency in regard to undocumented aliens in the U.S. mainland.  In that regard, this report is quite in step with the inconsistent message coming from the Obama Administration, federal departments, federal agencies and some hypocritical members of the U.S. Congress.

The foreign workers are regarded merely as tools of labor or essential commodities, but never as human beings.  The appendix lists statements by federal and CNMI agencies and officials, but contains no statement or reference to the workers' opinions of the program, the proposal for extension, their requests for permanent residency status, The voice of the workers and advocates is absent.

The report states under Objectives, Scope and Methology:
The objectives of this review were to (1) assess the status of federal implementation of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) transitional work permit program for foreign workers, (2) examine the economic implications for the CNMI of pending federal actions related to this permit program, and (3) provide the status of federal efforts to support worker training in the CNMI.
It further states:
In preparing this report, we reviewed CNRA; the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) interim and final rules containing regulations for a transitional worker classification program in the CNMI; documents from DHS and the Departments of Labor (DOL), State (State), and the Interior (DOI); and economic literature on the effects of uncertainty about future economic conditions on business owners’ investment decisions. We obtained and analyzed data from DHS, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), and the CNMI Department of Finance and found all data to be sufficiently reliable for the purposes of this report. In addition, we interviewed officials from DHS, State, DOL, DOI, and the Saipan Chamber of Commerce and obtained information from the CNMI government and members of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce. See appendix I for more details about our scope and methodology.
How can there be a true evaluation of the program if the views and concerns of the foreign workers and their advocates are not even in the equation!?

The reports considers the impacts and affects that the transitional guest worker program has on the economy, the business community and the U.S. citizens in determining whether or not to extend this transitional program or what changes should be made with it.  However, because the foreign worker (people who have lived and worked in the CNMI for years and decades) are seen as labor units rather than human beings, their needs are not considered or even mentioned. They are mentioned only as statistics, data or labor units.

The report states:
Uncertainty about the impact of the pending DHS and DOL decisions on access to foreign workers may be limiting business investment in the CNMI. Foreign workers made up more than half of the CNMI workforce in 2012, and CNMI businesses reported challenges in finding replacements for foreign workers. Some CNMI businesses indicated that uncertainty over pending federal actions has caused them to limit their plans for future investments in the CNMI.
What about the ongoing uncertainty of the foreign workers and their families? Should that be considered when making decisions? How about looking at the program to determine if it is humane; if it  is in violation with any articles of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights?

The report quotes the Saipan Chamber of Commerce:
Chamber officials also cited limited access to adequate health care in the CNMI, the high cost of living, and the high cost of shipping goods to and from the CNMI as factors that may have affected businesses’ investment decisions in the CNMI.
Does anyone consider the impact that the high cost of living and inadequate health care has on the CNMI foreign workers and their families? Where is federal government concern over this human rights issue?

I would like to see a GAO investigation and  report on how the CNMI and U.S. Governments have for decades and continue to allow the CNMI  foreign workers to live in substandard conditions; be denied adequate health care; experience racism and discrimination, even at federal offices; have assaults and attacks by CNMI officials ignored or excused; have crimes against them, even murders go unsolved; and suffer from routine theft of wages and other labor violations to fulfill the needs of the Chamber's members, business owners and contribute to the CNMI economy. Let the Congress order GAO to do a report on how the guest worker program acts as a dementor to suck human dignity, self-respect and freedom from the foreign workers.

Perhaps the U.S. Department of State should focus on the human rights abuses in the CNMI as much as it focuses on those in other parts of the world.

 “The humanity of all Americans is diminished when any group is denied rights granted to others.” ― Julian Bond

The GAO Report: Position Paper July 2012:


Anonymous said...

Does anyone consider the impact that the high cost of living and inadequate health care has on the CNMI foreign workers and their families? Where is federal government concern over this human rights issue?

What about persons of Northern Marianas descent (NMD)? See Covenant § 701, 48 U.S.C. § 1801 note ("The Government of the United States will assist the Government of the Northern Mariana Islands in its efforts to achieve a progressively higher standard of living for its people as part of the American economic community and to develop the economic resources needed to meet the financial responsibilities of local self-government.").

The feds have fallen short both with respect to contract workers and NMDs.

Anonymous said...

How hard is it to understand that Foreign Contract Workers are exactly that. They were and are here for a labor force and not for improved status/citizenship/green cards etc. They are a NON U.S. workforce working in a U.S. Commonwealth.

You do not see every foreign worker at our Military bases overseas demanding U.S. citizenship etc. They are foreign, they are a short term workforce.

Anonymous said...

The Feds have given almost two billion to the CNMI since the "covenant" was signed "in it's efforts to allow the CMNMI to progressively achieve a higher standard of living"
It is not the Feds fault that our people do not have the state of mind to be able to learn how to put these funds to procure the resources to actually improve the quality of life.(But the quality of life has improved since thw war and the TT days, until this last 6 years)
By constantly over the years voting in the "connected" families that are incompetent and uneducated the people themselves have allowed the "living standards" to decline.
The common way of doing things here is not to listen to anybody that is "an outsider" while the other Pacific Islands look to hire "outsiders" (regardless of their skin color)in an attempt to improve their conditions.

The same thing goes within the same elected and "connected" families and in general of the CNMI people in treating the CW as a "lesser" human and unequal to ourselves.
Many don't want the CW here, but by the same token they realize that they are needed as our people will not do certain jobs not work for low wages which have been kept low by the private sector and elected while raising the Govt. sector wages in an attempt to keep the local workforce obligated to the incompetent elected for any employment. Thus ensuring their continued place in the elected positions.

the teacher said...

We have a health care crisis. Almost all CWs are uninsured, they aren't insured for several reasons:
1. Real employers would now find aliens more expensive to employ than citizens (my insurance for example, is 660. per month for 80/20 no dental and that price doesn't include life)
2. Most of our employers are themselves foreign nationals and they "signed" for workers because it was so easy and inexpensive to do so (ei no minimum hours, no insurance, no housing, no travel or repatriation, etc)

Wendy Doromal said...

9:28 You are so right. William Stewart wrote an excellent series of articles about the billions of US dollars that the CNMI government misused. (One is here.) The federal money totaling over $3.8 billion has been provided, but much has been misspent under the direction of horrible leadership by egotistical and self-serving politicians and officials. The US taxpayers should not be continually called on to bail out the CNMI over and over and over for disasters that result from their own doing. My goodness, just look at the theft at the CHC that went unnoticed for years. How much did the Adas take? $1.7 million. That would have paid for many salaries, lots of needed supplies, etc. That theft could not have happened if a competent administration was over seeing the CHC.

Teacher - What is a "real" employer? Someone who runs an ethical business? Even "real" hotels and government institutions like CHC are ripping off the foreign workers. Please show me the data to back your claim that most employers are foreign nationals that signed off ....

Wendy Doromal said...

8:31 How hard is it to understand that the majority of the CNMI's foreign workers have lived and worked in the CNMI for many years and even decades? How hard is it to understand that they are responsible for building the CNMI and its economy? How hard is it to understand that these people were legally renewed year after year after year under the CNMI system? How hard is it to understand that these people should be regarded as members of the community with full rights? How hard is it to understand that the legal, long-term foreign workers of the CNMI should be treated with as much or more consideration than the undocumented aliens in the US?

Anonymous said...

Spot on again Wendy. The report is not even well-written. It is wishy-washy like the DOI report was. What legitimate report says "may be...", "could be..." and other foggy phrases? I thought GAO was supposed to get firm facts?

Anonymous said...

I just can't believe I'm reading a report issued by an agency that must be credible! Is this the best GAO can give US congress? "May be, could be... a study, huh!

It is indeed a sloppy job, Anon 9:50.

Anonymous said...

6:57 - There are about 1700 businesses, which is absurd, and I don't know anyone here that denies most employers are alien workers themselves, because the transitional regs and CW program were so soft(on employers or workers wanting to stay) until 2014 and allow anyone to hire with a simple registered corporation or business license until 2014.

Then, the investor visa regs will stop the high number of B1B2 visa holders from employing(mostly from Korea and Japan). I can go down Beach Rd today and find one foreign worker after another operaing every business from one end to the other, some for themselves, and most for Koreans or Chinese naionals...and I didn't do a sudy but it is a fact.

The garment industry is over and there ain't 1700 businesses in Saipan and there isn't ONE investor visa holder (who are required a minimal investment threshold and to hire 10 US citizens, not foreign workers). There are almost zero CWs working at AT&T, DFS, the US govt, and the hotels plus TH employ about 1500 total, so do the math.

Wendy Doromal said...

2:18 That may be true, but is there any data? It would be extremely helpful to be able to know the total number of businesses on each island, the number of businesses owned by US citizens versus the number owned by foreigners (and the status of the foreigners -investor or as you claim CW), the number of employees in each business and their status –US citizen, CW, or other visa holder. Data and facts are needed.