U.S. Immigration Policy and Reform: The Double Standard

February 14, 2013

Why is there one law and official policy for undocumented aliens in the U.S. and another for the undocumented aliens in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands?

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.

Sebrechts stated:
“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?

In the CNMI, the number of out of status nonresidents is far less than the estimated 11 million in the U.S. mainland. The estimate is that there is less than 1,000 out of status nonresidents still remaining in the CNMI. The majority of those who fell out of status have stayed in the CNMI because that is where they have lived and worked for many years or decades and they have no where to go. Others have families and do not want to leave their children or spouses behind.  Still others do not want to leave before collecting thousands, or tens of thousands, of dollars in unpaid wages that they are owed. They are waiting for the federal government to make them whole.

Obama Administration policies have called for limiting removal and deportation of undocumented aliens to those who have committed serious crimes or pose a security threat.  The June 2010 Morton memo  listed 19 humanitarian criteria that should be considered in making prosecutorial deportation decisions. In October 2011 USCIS Public information Officer Lori K. Haley confirmed that the Morton Memo, which addresses the deportation or removal of out of status aliens in the U.S., will be honored in the CNMI.  Why is USCIS sending mixed messages to the nonresidents in the CNMI?

Undocumented aliens in the U.S. have been invited to testify at Senate hearings, attend the President's State of the Union Address, are criss-crossing the country for other speaking engagements, and participating in marches. The Obama Administration, Congressional Democrats and some moral-minded Republicans are finally pushing for undocumented aliens to be embraced as part of our American Family, as they should.

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?

Some of the islands leaders, including impeached Governor Benigno Fitial and CNMI Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan, are calling for the removal of the CNMI's undocumented nonresidents.

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.


Anonymous said...

People argue that the US would never deport CWs from the CNMI because it cost too much money. Nonsense. That's not how it works. The Obama Administration has deported tens of thousands of immigrant via airplane straight back to Mexico and Central America. The Federal takeover supporters have been completely wrong on most accounts including the so called "humanitarian" treatment of CWs. Why should the Federal government be compassionate? Because of pictures of candle light vigils, Tina Sablan leading chants and Filipino children holding cardboard signs? Again it doesn't work that way. The US can easily and will most likely provide a one way ticket back which costs about $350 USD. What will the Filipino Citizens do when they arrive in Manila? Wendy, that is not Federal governments problem.

Wendy Doromal said...

5:17 Not too cold and callous. . .

Anonymous said...

Maybe every OCW should get out of status. The White House plan offers 8 year track for undocumented aliens to get citizenship. To the hater at 5:17 yes the US government should be compassionate to everyone. The OCWs have given so much. Its time to give back.

Anonymous said...

how dramatic....."who will finance their exit to nowhere???"

Is this the nowhere where the family and kids they left behind still live? Is this the nowhere they send money to every payday? Is this the nowhere they still visit whenever they can get the feds to issue them an advance parole to for whatever reason they come up with?

"They don't want to leave their children and spouses behind." Boy they sure had no problem leaving their kids and spouses behind in the PI and China when they came here did they, but now because they shacked up as common-law and had a couple kids with their new 'spouses' can't leave them behind can they??? No one in any position of authority ever told them they would be allowed to become permanent residents or citizens. Those whose dream it was fed them that line but it was never in the plan when they came here. Follow the law and if you have no status or are denied status you need to leave, if not the Feds will help you to go home. Choice is yours, personal responsibilty isn't based on what someone else 'did' to you it is based on what you do yourself......take some.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 9:31 Bitch much?

Anonymous said...

The color of covenant card got changed since CNRA became US law. Some bad people of CNMI still are trying to convince US govenrment not to increase CNMI minimum wages and to extend corrupted CW-1 program for another 5 years supported by Mr. Kilili. Mr. Kilili knows what is right and wrong. It is sad to find out that he leans toward wrong side so often when minimum wage and alien worker's immigration status are discussed. Just think once by shutting your eyes "Do you think that CNMI can progress without alien workers?". Is this equal right when undocumented alien workers in US are going to be treated as parmenant members of the USA, and not the documented and undocumented alien workers of U.S commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands? I wish Mr. Kilili will chose the right path when addressing CNMI alien workers issue to US government. Make alien workers in CNMI to be permanent member of the USA, so CNMI may get well recognized and promoted worldwide. It is a shame for a community where a governor gets impeached. It is a shame not only for the local people but also for other members (Unrecognized) of the CNMI community.

Anonymous said...

In response to Anon 9:42, yeah it is a bummer when the truth gets in the way of a story designed to tug at the heart strings isn't it?

Wendy Doromal said...

11:19 What you (9:31) stated is not the truth. In fact, your snarky attack on the foreign workers is typical of many racists and supremacists who belittle the nonresidents and generalize with remarks questioning their relationships, etc. I guess people do that to feel a sense of superiority? I cannot understand it. It seems unbelievable that people have such little hearts and empathy that they cannot want these people to have a better life. It seems incomprehensible that they dismiss them and their suffering so easily. You have no appreciation for their many contributions to the CNMI?

The U.S. has a seriously broken immigration system where people are regarded like labor units rather than as future citizens. You certainly regard them as such. No one in authority has to tell people what is right. People with a moral compass know that people who sacrifice to settle in the US and devote years to working and serving the community have a right to be accepted as equal community members. They do not need someone in "authority" to tell them what is right and what is wrong.

You seem to be ignorant also about the CNMI transitional worker program. It absolutely provides no path to citizenship for the legal, long-term guest workers. It just continued the broken CNMI system under another authority -the U.S. authority. Furthermore, the nonresidents in the CNMI should never be granted a lesser status than those undocumented nonresidents in the U.S. are. That is common sense.

Anonymous said...

11:19 Attitudes of gratitude are lacking in some people of the U.S commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The sooner a person realizes this, the better for him or her. Please try to learn how to appreciate people and their services. It is not too late.

Anonymous said...

i don't see any refuting of what that person stated,
1. CWs left wives, husbands, children in their home country to come to the CNMI and U.S. mainland. Is it any different to leave the children they birthed in the CNMI and U.S with different spouses any different then the actions they took to come here?
2. Are they really stateless when they, renew passports, vote in home country elections, travel to their home country for visits, medical care, etc.
3. If someone here is indigant and cannot find the money to pay for a inexpensive flight home how are they supporting themselves in the U.S. without availing to public assistance? The feds are more than happy to fund their return to their home country.

Without addressing the arguemnent it appears to come down to the people just don't feel like they should have to comply with the law if it isn't the answer they want.

Nothing racist about it, if I go to any foreign country i am obligated to follow the law regarding my ability to visit, work or immigrate into it. No different here nor should it be. At no time was any guest worker told by CNMI immigration officials or U.S. immigration officials that they would be granted any kind of permanent status here. that is the bottom line......like it or not

Anonymous said...

Hey haters
Here's wishing you the life that you wish for other people! Cheers!

Anonymous said...

"...it appears to come down to the people just don't feel like they should have to comply with the law if it isn't the answer they want. "

Kinda like when Rosa Park refused to give up her seat.

Anonymous said...

The US elected are not worried about the CNMI CW as there is not enough that have become US Cit. that make any difference and they cannot vote for the Pres. or any other elected anyway from the CNMI.
This whole thing is about the Latino vote.
Kilili is also a fence sitter on this issue as he and the other elected do not want any substantial number of outsiders being able to make a difference in voting in the CNMI.
Although I do support Kilili his stand on minimum wages and status are based on from where the strongest wind blows.
The only reason he presented the first bill affecting CW was because a number of CNMI voters are married to CW's and many of those families carry a lot of votes.
If the CW ever get a status that allows them to vote in the CNMI this will bring on a very big change along with better treatment and wages.
It will decimate much of the control many families have had on the CNMI for so long.
This is what happened in Hawaii over the years. It took outsiders being elected to bring needed progress, changes and wage reform to the Islands and is still ongoing.
But in the original laws to allow CW into the CNMI, it was originally supposed to be for a max of three years and they would have to leave and then come back after a specific period. This was so that we would not have this situation as we have now. But as we all know, the politics involved with the private sector ignored and changed these laws to suit the private sector employers while raising the wages in the Govt. sector and keeping the wages low in the private sector.
As I stated before elswhere is may be best to have these workers become illegal so they will fall under any reform as what happened in the 80's reform laws. The legal workers did not get any benefits on the whole, they were left out.
looks like this is what will happen here, now.

Another thing, it is not costly to hire CW as for so many years, even before the Fed take over most of us did not provide benefits such as food and housing, it was at the option of the workers. All opted out and was self provided.
Now nobody has to even provide medical, bonding, return trip etc. (many companies did not anyway)

Anonymous said...

Watch everyone, the immigration reform will happen and it will include all the US territories who are under federal immigration.

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