February 14, 2013
Why does the Obama Administration promote lenient and compassionate treatment for the 11 million undocumented aliens in the U.S. mainland and cruel and harsh policies for the estimated 12,000 legal and undocumented nonresidents in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands?
Why is there a push for an "earned" pathway to citizenship for 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. mainland and no mention of the same for the legal, long-term foreign residents workers of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands?
The double standard is unconscionable.
As an example, yesterday USCIS spokesperson Marie Therese Sebrechts announced another disturbing USCIS position in the extremely flawed CNMI-Only Transitional Worker Program, which is the brainchild of the Department of Homeland Security.
“If a Form I-129CW extension petition has been denied and the worker’s initial CW-1 validity period has ended, then that person is not authorized to work.”
“There is no grace period. The notice of denial will provide additional instructions. However, if the individual is without a valid status, he/she must leave the CNMI.”Leave the CNMI? Really? To where? Where would these long-term foreign workers who legally entered and worked in the CNMI for years, and even decades, go should their renewal applications not be approved? Many, perhaps the majority, have spent more years of their lives working and residing in the U.S. CNMI than in the homelands from which they were recruited.
Who would finance their exit to nowhere?
What would happen to the children of such workers? Many of their children are U.S. citizens. Is the U.S. Government supporting exiling CNMI families with U.S. citizen children or nonresident minors while publicly decrying separating families of undocumented aliens in the U.S. Mainland? Where is the justice in maintaining a dual set of rules? Where is the compassion?
Why are the CNMI's undocumented nonresidents and even the legal, long-term foreign nonresidents in always treated as the unwanted step-children in the American Family scheme? How can members of Congress who call themselves immigration advocates propose an earned pathway to citizenship for undocumented aliens in the mainland and an oppressive, second class non-citiznship status for only some of nonresidents in the CNMI? Why the double standard?
Congressman Sablan stated, “My position is that if you are out of status, your are out of luck and you are out of here.”
Sablan's position runs counter to the position on undocumented aliens that is held by members of the Hispanic, Asian Pacific American and Progressive Caucuses, of which Congressman Sablan is a member. Caucus members support an earned pathway to citizenship for the out of status aliens.
The CNMI's disgraced Republican governor, Benigno Fitial has repeatedly attacked out of status nonresidents with harsh statements such as, "I will not allow illegal aliens to stay another year."
In January 2013 Fitial stated, “I always maintain my position on illegals. They are not contributing to the welfare of the people of the commonwealth."
In response to Fitial's statement, Marianas Variety editor Zaldy Dandan set the governor, and without naming him, Congressman Sablan, straight with his editorial, The Heart Knows.
It does not seem plausible that any U.S. official, any member of the U.S. Congress, or any person with a moral compass would listen to the opinion of shady governor that has been impeached by the CNMI House on 18 articles, including felony charges, neglect of duty, and corruption. Several articles of impeachment relate to the incident where Fitial had a federal prisoner released from custody to give him a late night massage. But then again, Fitial has entertained members of the U.S. Congress in his former strip joint, Orchids; he brags about past corrupt schemes and friendships with felons like former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) and former CNMI lobbyist Jack Abramoff and somehow he still manages to get U.S. officials to give him the time of day. We have to assume that there are many U.S. Congressmen and U.S. officials that have broken moral compasses who will be happy to assist the corrupt CNMI governor.
The shameless, impeached governor often boasts about being the author of the CNMI's local guest worker and immigration program. This program brought pain and suffering to thousands of cheated and abused foreign workers. The dysfunctional program also brought disgrace to the United States and will forever remain as a dark stain on our country's reputation.
What is truly ironic is that the same governor and some of the same island leaders who oppose fair immigration reform provisions for the CNMI's nonresidents are the very ones who are responsible for bringing the foreigners to the CNMI. They are the ones who supported a system that allowed the foreign workers to be renewed year, after year, after year, until they finally became de facto citizens. It was the governor who flung open the doors to the CNMI to fill his co-conspirator, Willy Tan's garment factories with Chinese workers whose ill-treatment became an international scandal.
The local leaders pull out the indigenous rights card whenever they want to create separate U.S. laws for the CNMI. This card is used to keep control of political power, maintain a disenfranchised underclass, and to justify establishing undemocratic, anti-American policies and laws on U.S. soil. They used the indigenous rights card in negotiating a Covenant that allowed the CNMI to control their own immigration and labor system and they used it in attempts to maintain it. (Fool me once.) They used the indigenous rights card in managing to remove the provision from federalization legislation that would have provided status for the legal, long-term foreign workers of the CNMI. (Fool me twice.) It looks like they will be playing the card again in the latest comprehensive immigration reform discussions. Time will tell if the Federal Government folds once more to the detriment of good and loyal nonresidents and their families and the reputation of the United States.
Members of the U.S. House who, for decades, championed justice and status for the CNMI's foreign contract workers retreated in silence after the CNRA was passed in 2008. Other congressional champions have died or retired from Congress. No one in the U.S. Senate has stepped up to ensure that the CNMI's legal nonresidents are granted a pathway to U.S. citizenship. No one has proposed permanent residency for the foreign contract workers since Senators Murkowski, Akaka and Bingaman introduced Senate Bill 507 in 2001. In fact, where does Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), the new Chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, stand on the issue of permanent residency status for the legal and undocumented nonresidents of the CNMI?
As immigration reform is being drafted, the CNMI's nonresidents and their advocates deserve to know the position of the President, the affected cabinet members, DHS officials and members of the U.S. Congress concerning permanent residency status for the legal, long-term foreign workers of the CNMI. They deserve to know if the CNMI's undocumented aliens (estimated at under 1,000) will be given the same consideration as the undocumented aliens in the mainland in any immigration reform legislation. It would be unwise to sit by silently and hope for the best, only to be cheated yet again.
If President Obama, Administration officials and members of Congress are sincere in their rhetoric of embracing undocumented immigrants as part of the American Family, then they should also be pushing for permanent residency status and justice for the CNMI nonresidents.
Presidents, U.S. officials and members of the U.S. Congress and their staff have consistently ignored petitions, letters, reports, testimony and pleas from the advocates and legal, long-term nonresident workers of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. Decades of pleas for reform, justice and permanent residency status have been dismissed for political reasons, self serving agendas, and negligence.1
Over the decades the majority of the CNMI's legal nonresident workers suffered routinely from wage theft and other abuses due, in large part, to the negligence and failure of the U.S. Government to act to protect them or prosecute their abusers. The U.S. Government has had many opportunities to right this wrong, but it failed to act. It must act now. It can make the legal, long-term nonresidents whole by granting them permanent residency status.
1Read some of the hundreds of letters, reports, testimony and petitions that were sent to presidents, U.S. officials and members of the U.S. Congress over the last few decades: here (7/30/12), here (6/1/12), here (7/14/11), here (6/8/11), here (10-25-10), here (11/03/09), here (5/19/09), here (12/2008), here (2/28/08), here (8-07), here, 6/19/07), here (2/14/1998). There are also hundreds of letters from CNMI nonresidents and their U.S. citizen children that have been sent to the President, cabinet members, officials and staffers and members of the US. Congress.