September 2, 2012
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!
HAPPY LABOR DAY TO THE FOREIGN WORKERS OF THE CNMI!