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. . .