On an Extension of CNMI CW Program

February 3, 2013

The business community and CNMI Delegate Sablan are pushing for an extension of the CW Transitional Worker Program. Of course, everyone knows that if all of the CNMI's 12,000 or so foreign workers were to disappear in 2014 when the program ends, the collapse of the CNMI's economy would result. So essential are these workers that they make up an estimated 90% of the private workforce.  Many possess training and skills that local workers do not have. In fact, even if the local population had the skills to perform jobs that the foreign workers hold, still there are not enough locals to fill all or even most of the positions filled now by foreign workers.

If immigration reform is not pushed through then, of course, an extension would make sense.

There are several problems with pushing for an extension now. There are major transitions underway in U.S. Departments that will play a role in this decision.  U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis is leaving and we do not know who her replacement will be or if he/she will even know about the CNMI's foreign worker history and struggle. Additionally, the U.S. Secretaries of Interior and State have resigned and their replacements will also have to be briefed.

The current CW guest worker program has many flaws. An extension of a flawed program is certainly not ideal for the foreign workers or their employers.  Would a 5-year extension mean an extension of the existing flawed program, or would proposals for an extension call for needed improvements within the program?

Would an extension of the CW Program mean that less consideration would be given to the plight of the legal, longterm foreign workers in any immigration reform legislation? Would the urgency of upgrading and securing their status be lost once again?

What makes more sense is to push legislation that would grant the legal, longterm foreign workers – the CNMI's de facto citizens – permanent residency with a pathway to citizenship or outright U.S. citizenship. It makes more sense to stabilize the workforce and finally welcome these longtime community members formally into the community as equals.

If the legal, longterm foreign workers were given permanent residency status then a stable, skilled workforce would be ensured. The CW Program then could be used to hire any needed replacements or fill new positions that local workers did not have the training or skills to perform. Perhaps the CW Program would run more smoothly if it was overseeing a few hundred or a thousand foreign workers rather than tens of thousands of them.  As it stands today, still all of the applications for CW-1 visas submitted in 2011 have not even been processed!

We need to spend the next few weeks educating those who will have a role in drafting the immigration reform legislation as to the existence and plight of the CNMI's legal, longterm foreign workers. They must be included in any immigration reform legislation in a way that recognizes their great contributions and sacrifices. They should be separated from those who are not undocumented or unauthorized.

These foreign workers entered the country legally and remained legally for years and even decades.  They must not be thrown at the back of some imaginary line or made to jump through more hoops. They have stood in enough lines, jumped through enough hoops, suffered enough, been manipulated enough and have sacrificed enough. The time is now to take a moral stand and finally do right by these people.


Anonymous said...

USCIS does not consider Filipino CWs as immigrants no matter how long they've legally or illegally resided in the CNMI. Remember, this is what the candlelight vigils brought. The CWs begged for a Federal takeover.

Anonymous said...

Remember, too, that both Democrats and Republicans are pushing for a new U.S. guest worker program modeled after the CNMI model and the old Bracero program.

This one is supposed to be enforceable, in that the temporary workers really will be temporary.

So Congress will be loath to grant amnesty to all the CNMI guest workers.

Wendy Doromal said...

2:22 Where do you get your information? Links and documentation please. There is no evidence that anyone in Washington is stupid enough to model a national guest worker program after the flawed CW model. So much is wrong with the CW program, with the major part being that there is no pathway to citizenship. Businesses do not want to train and retrain people every year or two. The migrant workers in the states are free to travel. In fact, they follow the harvests. The CNMI guest workers have ridiculous travel restrictions that even make it difficult to attend their own family members' funerals or seek needed medical care on a nearby island.

The CNMI legal workers were not and are not TEMPORARY. They are de facto citizens. Anyone who dedicates so many years working in a community deserves and has earned permanent residency.

Why would you use the word amnesty with the LEGAL, long-term foreign workers of the CNMI. Do you even know what the word means? Legal people cannot be granted amnesty! The dictionary definition for amnesty is: "An official pardon for people who have been convicted of political offenses."

Anonymous said...

de facto citizens is not a legal definition under the law. temporary worker, non immigrant, immigrant and illegal alien are in fact legal definitions. So now is Contract Worker, a legal definition under the law. Houskeeper, store clerk, waitress, front desk clerk etc are not considered skilled labor under Immigration law. Until such time as all willing and able USCs have jobs such as those listed above there is no need to put 20+ million, + 10k in the CNMI on any pathway to anything nor given a legal status. This is not meant to be heartless but are you arguing that foreign nationals in the U.S. are entitled to a low skilled job before a USC who is looking for work, if so just admit that.

CWs having trouble getting medical treatment on nearby islands??? Nearby to the CNMI, you mean Chuuk, Phonipe or Yap???? the only nearby island for medical treatment is the PI or Japan. CWs are free to go to either if they need medical care. As temporary, i.e. non-immigrants which means not here forever, they might not be able to re-enter the U.S. but that is a choice they need to make......

Wendy Doromal said...

9:58 De facto is a term used by attorneys and lay people. De facto means: "existing in fact, whether legally recognized or not" This term perfectly describes the LEGAL, LONG-TERM foreign workers. Any person who lives in and contributes to a community for 5, 10, 20 30 or more years is a de facto citizen.

Some of these people are not unskilled. The CW category even covers some nurses. Under the law locals get first choice for positions. If you have a problem with locals not getting preference, bring it up with the employers.

No, nearby islands like Guam, the Philippines and Hawaii.

Anonymous said...

How are these supposed legal cw's that are in their 60-s+ going to be supported once if ever they are given permanent CNMI status? If any cw can work for anyone for any job outright, why keep an unskilled 60 year old man/woman on your payroll when there would be plenty of much younger cw's wanting the same job? Who is going to take care of these old timers? No Social Security (exempted), no retirement, NO INCOME. Will my hard earned tax dollars going to go towards keeping them from begging on the streets?

Just answer this simple question Wendy:

Who is going to support them and how?

Wendy Doromal said...


The legal, longterm foreign workers should be given green cards or outright US citizenship. Filipinos and I think Koreans have been exempt from FICA because of agreements with the US and their governments. The Bangladeshis and Chinese and others never were. Recently the CNMI's political leaders pushed to continue the exemption, not because they cared for the workers, but because employers would have to pay a share.

The qualifying foreign workers will collect SS when they come of age or if they become disabled and have 10 quarters. Others will probably be taken care of by family members.

Obviously, none of the longterm workers are considered "unskilled" because they have been renewed for years and even decades, which indicates their skills are needed. It is illegal for an employer to terminate an employee based on age. It is an EEOC violation.

Maybe some workers could establish their own retirement funds if their crook past employers paid them all that is owed to them.

Anonymous said...

anon 9:51 good point and one of many that don't get considered. it is so easy to push an agenda that is dealing only in the abstract but when gets into the weeds they see it is not at all how they portray it. Just one of many little details that MUST be considered before anyone votes on any pathway to something. These are the things that Congress will have to consider before any bill gets written. Gotta love how this is the most important issue in America right now, what with tens of million USC out of work and struggling to make it day to day, yet we have all these compassionate folks so concerned and worried about people here who legally have no authorization to be in the U.S. and now they are advocating for more unskilled people to be allowed to come to the U.S. plus have them bring their families.......If they felt half as bad for the millions of USCs unemployed and millions of USCs underemployed maybe we could force this Administration to "focus like a laser" on jobs. didn't Obama say that was what he was going to do over a year ago?? We didn't think he meant the few remaining jobs held by US citizens by helping more illegal aliens and new unskilled "guest workers" from third world countries come here to take those jobs. sad sad sad