Labor Day: Take Time to Thank a Foreign Worker ♥

September 2, 2012

As Americans across the nation celebrate Labor Day, Boboy and I applaud the 16,000 noble foreign laborers far across the ocean in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). We send you our love and best wishes.

If you are a CNMI resident you can recognize these essential members of the CNMI family by thanking a foreign worker this weekend. Stop by the tents at the USCIS office and drop off some food or drink, or just offer some kind words to recognize their sacrifice and many vital contributions to the CNMI.

Even though the legal, long-term foreign workers were never promised a pathway to citizenship when they began their employment in the CNMI, they certainly have earned one. Few of them suspected when they left their homelands that they would be asked to renew their contracts year, after year, after year. Their valuable skills were essential to the CNMI economy, and most were invited to stay. Over the years, they sold their property and broke all ties with their homelands. Many of the nonresidents have lived and worked longer in the CNMI than in their homelands, and yet they remain disenfranchised.

Many of them have lived longer in the CNMI than some of the islands’ voters have, and still they cannot vote. Many of them have U.S. citizen children that serve in the United States Armed Forces, but they cannot even visit the U.S. mainland. All of them pay taxes, yet they are not represented and have no voice in decisions that impact their lives. The foreign workers are neighbors, co-workers, friends, fellow-worshippers and in some cases, relatives of the indigenous people. They have embraced the culture and some have learned the native language. They have labored to build the CNMI, to serve the residents, and to support the economy.

The long-term foreign workers who call the CNMI their home love the islands as much as the indigenous people do although it is not their birthplace. Where a person is born is an accident of birth, but the place that a person chooses to call home is a conscious decision. The foreign workers were invited to the CNMI because they were needed, and they stayed so many years because they were valued.

The time to remove the chains from the long-term foreign workers who have become the CNMI’s much needed and respected long-term members of the CNMI community is long overdue. It is time to finally free the commonwealth’s long-term foreign workers and to make them full-fledged citizens of the United States.

To the CNMI foreign workers –  Congratulations on getting over 1,000 signatures on the petition requesting permanent residency status and opposing an extension of the CW Program!

Know that I remember you today and every day, you have a special place in my heart. Below is a song that I wrote many years ago in 1997 for the Filipino foreign workers. Boboy translated it and composed the music.  The lyrics apply to all of the CNMI's foreign workers. Even though the song was posted for Filipino Independence Day, it applies more to Labor Day so I am sharing it with you again today.

Also below is a report that I recently wrote and sent to members of the U.S. Congress, Secretary Hilda Solis and other federal officials. Enjoy Labor Day!



Anonymous said...

Thank you m'am!

Anonymous said...

let's try for some honesty......have tehy earned a right to citizenship??? maybe......but the line about seperating all ties with the former homeland and they are some how adrift?? you know that is a many still support first wives/husbands back in the PI, China and Bangladesh? How many cry they need parole to go visit these families??

State your case that some how being here in the CNMI for five or ten years earns them a green card but be intelectually honest and admit that most still maintain close ties to their homeland and sell your case with facts and not lies to try and tug at the emotions.....those making the decision in Congress won't buy it and those here in the CNMI know better......

Wendy Doromal said...

6:42 Okay, honestly you make no sense. Since when does becoming a U.S. citizen require or even suggest that a person should disown their former country or ties with family? Please!

Anonymous said...

hafa dai,happy LABORDAY to all workersssssssssss of cnmi/all.....cnmi workers has contributed a lot ,,,they live very far from them family and its too hard ,,,our corrupted politicians are taking advantage of those cheated workers,,,,they really cheated and abused/harassed by our government as well as by our business people,,,most of all employers are taking advantage though not to renew contract. doing unfair with them and fair with locals..them life on limo with fear day by day,they dont know what to do after how many years cheated/abused,,,,our government played game with them for vote bank and other side employer had and taking advantage of this innocent cw system...also our government/media/federal authorites had played role to give them american dream day by day and last give them lots of pain,,,,our local people can't feel it because they are never that kind of situation....i request to all our people to support them to be part of our beautiful nation,,,,,GODBLESS USA

Anonymous said...

Thank you mom, Happy Labor Day!

Anonymous said...

ummmm actually the oath of Citizenship requires that they swear allegance to the U.S. and no other foreign gov. you can read it yourself. I think what the person was saying is that the argument that one of the reasons given, right there in your article, is that these people "gave up" everything while they were here... in reality it is quite the opposite. many gained a second spouse, while still holding onto the first back home, and a bunch of new kids to fill out the second family.

they then request permission to go back and visit these families, usually telling the employer they need time off for their grandmother's funeral etc, had one employee use that excuse five times over the years! i think what the commentater was saying is argue for facts and leave emotion out of it because it could come back to nip at your heels. facts are facts.

also why hug a foreign worker on labor day? why not hug a worker regardless of foreign or not???

Wendy Doromal said...

6:24 Actually, you are attempting to mislead. The oath does not say that anyone who becomes a US citizen must cut all ties with their former country. In fact, some people have dual citizenship. Of course many workers gave up everything to work in the CNMI. Many LOST everything to work in the CNMI! Many sold their land and other possessions just to pay the recruitment fees. Additionally, many came with their spouse, or remained unmarried. Of course, many single people did find a spouse, get married and have children. As for the "two" families stereotype, perhaps it applies to some, but certainly not most or many. How many divorced people in the U.S. and around the world have "two" families. Do you also put them down?

Facts are facts. The fact is that most of the CNMI long-term workers were ill-treated by thief employers (even many of the "nice" ones made them pay for their CW permit fees!) and continue to be. The current immigration policies also put the CNMI long term workers at a advantage.

If you feel no compassion towards their plight, if you do not appreciate their contributions, then of course you would not want to express thanks to them (Who said hug?)

Anonymous said...

umm U.S. doesn't recoginize dual citizenship. no one said cut all ties, just said must swear allegiance to the U.S. and pay no allegiance to any other foreign government that is in the oath. if you really don't think a large portion of foreign workers don't have two spouses and families that they are legally married to then you have been gone from here too to the lawyers who handle immigration cases.heck bruce and mara did a column on it in the trib..wouldn't waste a whole column on it if it was the exception not the rule.....

Anonymous said...

"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."

Wendy Doromal said...

7:32: Yes, the US recognizes dual citizenship.

Wendy Doromal said...

7:32 Oh and no not a "LARGE" portion of foreign workers have "two spouses and families"!

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous who keeps posting stereotypical comments about foreigners having two families:

On dual citizenship from the US DEPARTMENT OF STATE:

The concept of dual nationality means that a person is a citizen of two countries at the same time. Each country has its own citizenship laws based on its own policy.Persons may have dual nationality by automatic operation of different laws rather than by choice. For example, a child born in a foreign country to U.S. citizen parents may be both a U.S. citizen and a citizen of the country of birth.

A U.S. citizen may acquire foreign citizenship by marriage, or a person naturalized as a U.S. citizen may not lose the citizenship of the country of birth.U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one citizenship or another. Also, a person who is automatically granted another citizenship does not risk losing U.S. citizenship. However, a person who acquires a foreign citizenship by applying for it may lose U.S. citizenship. In order to lose U.S. citizenship, the law requires that the person must apply for the foreign citizenship voluntarily, by free choice, and with the intention to give up U.S. citizenship.

Intent can be shown by the person's statements or conduct.The U.S. Government recognizes that dual nationality exists but does not encourage it as a matter of policy because of the problems it may cause. Claims of other countries on dual national U.S. citizens may conflict with U.S. law, and dual nationality may limit U.S. Government efforts to assist citizens abroad. The country where a dual national is located generally has a stronger claim to that person's allegiance.

However, dual nationals owe allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country. They are required to obey the laws of both countries. Either country has the right to enforce its laws, particularly if the person later travels there.Most U.S. citizens, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States. Dual nationals may also be required by the foreign country to use its passport to enter and leave that country. Use of the foreign passport does not endanger U.S. citizenship. Most countries permit a person to renounce or otherwise lose citizenship.

the teacher said...

An employer or worker that is involved with employees paying CW fees has intentionally participated in immigration fraud. I would be in favor of deporting the alien and prosecuting the citizen to the fullest extent of the law.

Wendy Doromal said...

Ron: If the CNMI or federal governments had ever prosecuted the hundreds of law-breaking CNMI employers who have cheated foreign workers over the decades by threatening that they would not have a job if they did not pay their own application fees, did not pay for their own physicals or medical fees, did not work for a wage less than the minimum wage, did not work without overtime pay, accepted late wages (or no wages) or violated other conditions that were in their contracts or in the law, then most of the CNMI's employers would have been fined or behind bars. The system INVITES exploitation and ABUSE.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the teacher, what he says about it being immigration fraud is correct. regardless of what transpired in the past like this it wasn't the purview of U.S. DHS. it has been since 2009 and the USCIS and USICE is looking to prosecute employers and employees who knowingly violate immigration law. The decision to violate Federal immigration law whether it is an employer or employee doesn't matter. Knowingly violating the law is a crime, doesn't matter if the employee feels he has to do it in order to stay in the CNMI, that dog won't hunt, you never have to violate the law it is a consious choice. Employers and employees both who violate the law should and will be pursued by CIS and ICE.....

captain said...

In regards to the employers having the CW pay for the filing fees etc.
I have heard and been told by some employers (and employees) that they ask the CW to "lend them" the cost and they will be reimbursed later. (but never happens)
Another way is that they ask the employee to "advance" the payment and they will be reimbursed later.
This also does not happen but it is an attempt to cover in case this is brought up in a complaint.
The employer reasons they can just payback the fees to the employee at that time and all will be dismissed because it was only a late payment etc.
On many cases (and I have had this proposals in the past) the employee "offers" to pay the fees if I hire them.(or renew contract) Even if only on paper.
Many on both sides, don't realize that now this is a Fed. criminal act.
If prosecuted, both will be held liable and accountable and suffer the consequences.
This is no longer the CNMI DOL and Immigration that we are dealing with and in the past just can just pay them off as has been the situation for years.
An example is to look at the Fed.prosecution of the many for lying on applications.
This same thing went on for so many years under the old CNMI Immigration. All scam applications were accompanied by $250 or more to the correct officials.

Anonymous said...

Wendy, I agree with your response in 6:08 and agree that the many abuses of the past are a shame as they were terrible, but two wrongs don't make a right, and past labor and immigration issues are not a valid excuse for immigration fraud today, and it is rampant here among employers and workers.

7;32 A US citizen may have dual citizenship. My US citizen child and I may hold dual citizenship to any nation that we meet the eligibility requirements, which is generally determined by evidence of wealth and income. My wife was required to denounce her citizenship to become a US citizen, and she may (or may not) qualify for citizenship someday in another nation, but she may not ever travel using another passport other than her US blue one, and should she ever do that, she would be breaking US law even if the border crossing wasn't entering or exiting US soil. That is made crystal clear to all US citizenship candidates when your passport is cut into right in front of you.

If we are specifically talking about PI as most of the followers here do, PI citizenship is based on blood not soil, so my son (not born in PI but his mom was) could apply for PI citizenship along with his mother (born in PI), and that process is typically a simple one requiring normal paperwork and fees for both of course. As a native born US citizen, I have no right to hold dual citizenship in PI. The only way I could hold PI citizenship according to Philippine law is to first denounce my US citizenship and then apply in PI, which is a costly process with no guarantee and the litmus test for eligibility is generally meeting the financial requirements and guidelines for wealth and income.