Immigration Proposals Fraying Around the Edges

February 6, 2013

Even as support for the President's immigration plan builds, Republicans in the House are starting to rip apart the bipartisan Senate proposal that called for a "earned" pathway to citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants. Some are calling for a status somewhere between deportation and citizenship. The proposal calls for a type of residency status that would create a permanent underclass, a class of easily exploited, voiceless laborers.

The New York Times reports:
At a House Judiciary Committee hearing exploring an overhaul of the immigration system — the first of several such hearings expected in the House — Representative Robert W. Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia and chairman of the committee, tried to frame what he called the question of the day: “Are there options that we should consider between the extremes of mass deportation and a pathway to citizenship for those not lawfully present in the United States?”
An article in The Atlantic, by Conor Friedersdorf, Reform Immigration, but Don't Create Second-Class Non-Citizens, is aligned with my beliefs on the issue. He writes in part:
"I'm all for more legal immigration, especially for highly skilled workers, and I want people who sneaked into the United States, worked or studied, and committed no crimes to get citizenship. 
But a guest-worker program? 
I'd rather permit more new citizens to come here permanently, as prospective citizens, than to institutionalize a sort of second-class non-citizenship that treats people as labor. I am here today, along with most of the restrictionists in America, because the legislators of bygone decades permitted waves of immigrants to come here legally (and not as guest workers, either -- as full citizens). When I read deep into New York City history about the crowded tenements, street gangs, ethnic machine politics, and disease outbreaks associated with the waves of European immigration, and then hear people who are far less affected complaining bitterly today about (and this is a thing) having to press one for English, I wonder, as the tiniest violins play, if they ever stop to reflect that they wouldn't be here if bygone generations were as restrictionist as they are."
My sentiments exactly!

While it may appear that Congressman Sablan is breaking with the Democrats and President Obama in proposing a CNMI-only status for the legal, long-term foreign workers of the CNMI, he said something important that suggests he realizes that a CNMI-only status is not moral, adequate or final.

From The Marianas Variety (my emphasis):
“If I were required to compromise on the path to citizenship, I would like to, at least for now, and have a CNMI-only status,” he said. He added, “I want to give many of these people…status in the CNMI only just so they can remain here until many of them will qualify for green cards of their own.”
We all know that if a comprehensive immigration bill included a provision for 11 million unauthorized immigrants to earn a pathway to citizenship and Congressman Sablan proposed that the estimated 12,000 CNMI legal, long-term foreign workers be given permanent residency with a pathway to citizenship, it would absolutely happen.  We have to wait to see how the House bill unfolds.

I believe that Congressman Sablan is saying that he realizes that the clock is ticking for the CNMI legal, long-term workers and there is an urgent need for them and their family members to be granted a secure status now. I agree. They need to be given an immediate secure status even if, for the time being, it is one that would keep them in the CNMI as a disenfranchised underclass. The CNMI is their home. They make up a majority of the private sector. Many have U.S. citizen children or spouses. They need protection now.

Congressman Sablan mentioned that he was considering adding a fifth category to his bill. If that fifth category includes all legal, long-term foreign workers who have worked and lived legally in the CNMI for the last five years (not just those with a U.S. citizen child or spouse), then I would support the bill until we could convince a more mature United States of America that class systems are un-American and undemocratic. If the bill proposed a temporary CNMI-only status to be changed to U.S. permanent residency status in 10 years or until the foreign worker otherwise qualifies for permanent residency, I would completely support such a bill.

As for thinking of skilled and dedicated workers as a burden to Guam or Hawaii, I say nonsense. We are talking about at the most 13,000 people. Does anyone really believe that these people would leave the CNMI, the only home that they have known for years or decades, to start all over again somewhere else? How many could even afford to relocate considering their poverty-level wages? This is not a valid argument. What is sad about this argument is that it is used to justify restricting the travel and denying permanent residency status to these deserving legal foreign workers.

If the undocumented aliens in the mainland would be rated as second-class citizens if they were to receive a permanent guest worker-type status as Conor Friedersdorf stated in his article, then surely those legal, long-term foreign workers who would be granted a CNMI-Only status would be considered third-class citizens. After all, H.R. 1466, the original bill that Congressman Sablan introduced, did not even allow those residents with CNMI-only status to leave the island to work or travel elsewhere on U.S. soil. There is no humanity on regarding people as mere labor units.

I disagree with Sablan's statement: “My position is that if you are out of status, your are out of luck and you are out of here.” This position conflicts with the pillars of the comprehensive immigration proposals presented by the bipartisan Senate committee and President Obama. Our country cannot grant an earned pathway to citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized aliens on the mainland and not do the same for those out of status aliens in the CNMI. Especially since the vast majority of those who are undocumented in the CNMI are out of status because they are waiting in the CNMI to receive the wages that former employers stole from them.

A CNMI-Only status is not the status that the legal, long-term foreign workers deserve. After all they entered the CNMI legally, most have lived and worked in the CNMI for 5 or more years, many for decades. But if this is the only status that can be negotiated until the residents of the CNMI and all Americans can grow hearts, then it is better than nothing until. . .


Anonymous said...

“I want to give many of these people…status in the CNMI only just so they can remain here until many of them will qualify for green cards of their own.”

Sablan cannot grant anything to anyone - anywhere. I understand your position on Sablan. Be nice to him, congratulate him on his "moving" speeches but criticize him on CW issues. The pathway to citizenship will be earned Wendy. That means that undocumented aliens must go through the same exact process as everyone else who emigrates to the United States. To do otherwise would be un American.

Anonymous said...

Almost all skilled nurses, engineers, teachers, carpenters and many others will leave if granted status to leave the CNMI. Aside from the low salaries, there is discrimination, inability to purchase real property and general disenfranchisment. Wages primarily in Guam for many skilled jobs would be suppressed for 5-10 years.

When nursing visas were available to the U.S. mainland, CHC couldn't keep a non-resident nurse and turnover was almost 100%. With the same salary as 10 years ago, and an opportunity to earn double in the U.S. mainland, it would be foolish to think that even a fraction of the skilled workforce would stay in the CNMI if given an opportunity to leave.

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 7:39

Congressman Sablan can introduce legislation and he can vote in committees. He has great influence. You don't know anything about my "position" on anyone. My position is not based on personalities. It is based on principles. I agree with aspects of Congressman Sablan's proposals and I disagree with others. I respect his efforts. I support President Obama's plan. His plan calls for undocumented immigrants to earn a pathway to citizenship. This should apply to ALL undocumented aliens, including those who are in the CNMI.

Anonymous said...

anyone who thinks that skilled workers would stay here is not in touch with the reality out here. Many try to get to the states now with parole for some " real reason" if granted it they are on the first plane out of here and cash in the return ticket from the states. All that will be left are the ones who aren't working anyway, out of status people and those who are working at the dozens of tire shops, dress shops and mom and pop grocery stores. How many of them do we really need??

Anonymous said...

I believe that 50%-80% of the nurses at chc will leave within 2-3 years if given improve immigration status. nurses at chc get paid 9-15 dollars includes unit managers. A graduate nurse who is an RN gets paid 30-50 dollars depending which hospital a person is working for in the states. 50%-80% of the nurses at chc already have 3-4 yrs exp, are exceptional and hard-working and many will leave for greener pastures. I know i would. why work for $10 without housing or benefits when i can work for a minimum $30 with benefits in a good hospital in the states. Dangerous situation for chc if immigration reform will give straight path to citizenship. Theres gotta be a clause to the immigration reform to prevent an exodus of nurses from going to greener pastures.
The hospital in its current state will never be able to pay an RN's (associates or bachelors degree)a pay deserving of their position.

There is already an exodus of nurses that went to the states without immigration reform what more if the rest of the nurses are given green cards.

United States Hospitals = 30-50 dollars, benefits, vacation with pay, stability, enough medical supply, good working environment

CHC= 9-15 dollars, no housing, maybe no more insurance benefit, bad retirement fund, toxic environment, lack medical supply, overworked due to lack of staff, lack of doctors..malfunctioning machines,stress,
the only good thing are the great nurses and doctors that work for chc.

Anonymous said...

What I'm reading here is:
1. NMI foreign workers are needed but won't ever be accepted as equals no matter how long they work in the NMI.
2. NMI foreign workers have no incentives to stay in the NMI. They get crappy wages, crappy benefits and there's racist, crappy attitudes towards them so they need to be forced to stay by giving them a status category that won't let them leave. (12:25: "Theres gotta be a clause to the immigration reform to prevent an exodus of nurses from going to greener pastures.") Kinda like slaves, right? Force them to stay on your plantation.
3. NMI residents are selfish and think they're the only ones who are good enough to be made instant citizens. (7:39: did they follow the rules, stand in line, earn that citizenship?)
4. Some folks in the NMI can't count.(11:53 How many of them do we really need??) If it's true that over 3/4 of the workers in the NMI private sector are foreigners, then they're probably all needed.
5. The NMI isn't treating nurses as professionals and they're not hired under H-1B visas. (12:25: "Dangerous situation for chc if immigration reform will give straight path to citizenship." "CHC= 9-15 dollars, no housing, maybe no more insurance benefit, bad retirement fund, toxic environment, lack medical supply, overworked due to lack of staff, lack of doctors..malfunctioning machines,stress,the only good thing are the great nurses and doctors that work for chc.") You folks here are saying the only way to keep great workers is to give them a status that restricts them to the NMI. Did you ever think about improving wages, benefits, and the overall treatment of your workers?
6. The NMI is such a hellhole that the only way to have enough workers is to never let them get green cards or citizenship. You want to give foreign workers a status that forces them to stay in the NMI or return to the countries they came from. That way keep them coming and going to serve you. Don't acknowledge that they're people like you.

Are you folks reading the what you're writing here?Someday these words should be in a history book in a chapter about slave owner mentality and tragic conditions and treatment for NMI foreign workers.

Anonymous said...

I fully understand 6:39 sentiments:

1.Let the immigration reform happen
2.Everybody gets green cards or straight US citizen in 2-3 yrs
3.CHC and clinics cannot afford to pay higher salaries and are unable to compete with higher wages not only in the States but from many other countries like Australia, Canada,and the UK. 50% or more of nurses leave chc and nurses from clinics leave.

I know people with low paying jobs will stay and help the CNMI economically if given green cards but what will happen to the professionals who deserve higher pay, most will leave.

Im schooling at NMC and talk to graduate nurses, out of 25 students 5-6 pass nclex board exam, how will chc and clinics replace outgoing nurses?

CHC and clinics will have to close from not having enough nurses.

Whats the solution?

I am for immigration reform 100% im just looking at another prespective.

Anonymous said...

Anyone have an answer for 8:35's comment? anonymous has a good point.

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 1:59

It isn't just CHC. Most professionals in the CNMI are not given the pay or benefits that they could receive in the states or Canada. The CNMI cannot compete with the wages, has a broken retirement system, a struggling health care system, soaring crime rate and a racist environment. Foreigners are often discriminated against, disrespected, cheated and/or exploited.

CHC failed to pay the nurses on time on all three islands, cut their benefits, took away housing and acted like it was no problem. Did the foreign nurses ever recover all the wages that were owed to them?To top it off, CHC was under investigation by a federal agency for serious violations that endangered patients. It is fortunate that it was not shut down. CHC is not an attractive or secure place to work.

Let's not forget that locals in many professional categories earn more than foreigners who perform the same jobs. Discrimination and poor treatment of foreign workers has been the rule and according to foreign workers, remains the rule today. That is a big deterrent.

If CHC got it together and actually fixed the billing system to consistently collect revenue perhaps then the agency could afford to pay higher salaries. If the CNMI government taxed the residents or instituted a sales tax, then it would have more revenue to pay its share of retirement and give a decent budget to CHC, PSS and other essential agencies for salaries and benefits. The CNMI would rather exist as a welfare case to the federal government than to raise revenue on its own. That is a big deterrent.

Probably most professional job categories in the CNMI do not pay anywhere near what their counterparts pay in the states. Accountants, architects, electricians, engineers and other professional job categories have been advertised in CNMI papers for the CNMI minimum wage. Who would pick $5 something an hour in the CNMI over $20 -$50 or more an hour in the states? Even teachers are paid considerably less in the CNMI. For instance, teachers in Florida, which ranks at the bottom of the pay scale of all states, make considerably more than what teachers in the CNMI make -over $7,000 more at the bottom of the pay scale for starting teachers and almost $20,000 more at the top of the pay scale. Florida teachers receive thousands in additional pay for being club advisors, coaches and performing other duties. They also earn thousands more for having masters or doctorate degrees and get annual bonuses if they work at an "A" school or a Title One school. They have secure retirement and benefits and a much, much lower cost of living.

The government robbed the retirement system and it is nearly out of funds. Who wants to work in a place where their retirement may by nonexistent when they want to retire?

Then there is crime. How many foreigners have been victims of assaults, robberies, rapes and even murders and their crimes go unsolved? That is another huge deterrent. Not to mention the cost of living. The prices of food and utilities are off the charts.

At the bottom of the debate is the corrupt government. Laws are not enforced. A documented $6.1 million was stolen from foreign workers in wage theft schemes and nothing has been done to punish the thieves or pay back the victims. The wage theft is flourishing today, according to foreign workers.

Disenfranchised workers have no rights. They are mere labor units who are easily exploited. Noncitizen status, which would make the foreign workers second class non-citizens, would perpetuate the terrible system of exploitation. Giving them permanent residency would force employers to treat their workers right, pay them right or lose them. That would be a good thing for all workers and for the CNMI.

Jaleel said...

Great post, very good info