Support for CNMI's Foreign Workers Comes From All Corners of the Globe

May 30, 2013

The CNMI foreign workers, advocates, respected community members and present and former U.S. officials all agree that the DOI Federal Ombudsman Office in the CNMI must remain open.

In a surprising move, the U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Insular Affairs announced that the office would be closed in September 2013.

The closure will be detrimental to the foreign workers, resulting in further suffering and the denial of justice for thousands of foreign workers who routinely become victims of unscrupulous employers, scams, or criminal acts. (Please see these previous posts: Ombudsman Office to Close, Please Sign the PetitionMore on the Closing of the Ombudsman Office, Worker Groups United in Their Support of the Ombudsman Office.)

The online petition to keep the Ombudsman Office open has been signed by some former U.S. officials, including Jeff Schorr, who served as the U.S. Department of the Interior's Field Representative in the CNMI for 25 years. He was quoted in the Saipan Tribune as saying, "It wasn't a wise decision to close the ombudsman's office because the office is in the best position to continue to monitor and assist in all those cases that come in.”

David Cohen, the former Deputy Assistant Secretary for the DOI Insular Affairs Office, who now lives in California, also signed the petition, as did David North a former OIA staff member. Other notable supporters include attorneys, including Steve Nutting, Jennifer Sommer,  Jane Mack from Micronesian Legal Services, Inc. and Richard Weil, former CNMI Attorney General.

James (Jim) Benedetto, who served as the Labor Ombudsman from 2002 - 2008, and presently works for the U.S. Department of State in Timor-Leste, penned a letter of appeal to keep "the office open for another five years, or at least until several important issues are resolved concerning the alien workers in the  Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)."

The letter was addressed to Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, Senator Ron Wyden, Chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and Luis CdeBaca the U.S. State Department's Ambassador-at-Large for the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking of Persons.

Mr. Benedetto's letter, written as a private citizen, clearly outlines the danger of closing the office and why it is needed now more than ever. It chronicles the history of the office, the mission and the necessity of keeping it open. Read the letter:
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Mr. Benedetto's letter states the action that the U.S. Congress must take regarding immigration status for the CNMI's legal, long-term foreign workers. From his letter:

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This statement echoes what has been said on this site over and over and over for years.  It supports what the legal, foreign workers want and deserve.

Mr. Benedetto should be applauded for his continued support of the foreign workers, his sense of justice and moral courage. Now what is needed is a member of the U.S. Congress with the same sense of justice, moral courage and plain common sense who will champion the cause of the CNMI's legal, long-term  foreign workers to demand that they be provided the status that they have earned - permanent residency.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nobody can quite figure out what Jeff actually did. He was a Wild Bills most of the time watching sports.

USDOL will handle all CWs. This is now a Federal issue and you can't have the Ombuds office trying to hide CW information from Federal officials.

Wendy Doromal said...

USDOL will not be able to "handle all CWS" and has never been able to even address all labor issues. The CNMI USDOL branch is not a properly staffed or funded office. The fact that the Tinian Dynasty has always and continues to cheat the foreign workers testifies to that.

Additionally, not all of the foreign workers' problems are related to labor. Many are criminal. Human trafficking has skyrocketed through the years and the first place of entry for help has often been the Ombudsman Office. Translation services provided by the Ombudsman Office are essential.

The Ombudsman Office does not hide information -it shares it with federal officials in all U.S. departments.

Anonymous said...

The services to end Human trafficking, Human smuggling, Human sex trafficking, Human exploitation, Human abused, Human discrimination, wage theft and victims of Crime in U.S Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands provided by DOI office of the federal Ombudsman office are not only history of a U.S territory but also are outstanding performance and credential evidence for U.S government.
USDOL & CNMI-DOL are not working together to investigate this because CNMI-DOL still considers to be in-charge to control labor & alien worker’s issue on the islands and do not respect the congressional intent of CNRA or PL-110-229. Some politicians of CNMI also never respect any recommendations for alien worker’s immigration status prepared by DOI to U.S Congress; CNMI immigration provision added recently into Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill is an example crafted by Mr. Kilili to show the world that human exploitation is still not impossible on the islands.
It should not get closed when alien worker’s exploitations on the islands still remain continue. Abused alien worker will be floating like a tube in Western pacific if DOI office of the federal Ombudsman office gets shut down. Please leave it open until at least CW-1 program currently administered by US Department of Homeland Security is vanished.

Anonymous said...

The Ombuds office has absolutely nothing to do with enforcing immigration and labor laws nor does it prevent everything you mentioned. The Ombuds position is an archaic office that started a long time ago to address contract workers and their issues. Once the Federal government took over that office is now obsolete. It has been stated here many times that Pam is their lawyer - well if ICE wants a list of illegals the Ombuds has to give that list to ICE immediately or face obstruction charges. This is where it get cloudy and confusing. If the Ombuds tries to help a CW who is here illegally the Obmuds could be brought up on Federal charges. If they turn in the CW then they are not really helping them are they?

Wendy Doromal said...

The Ombudsman Office assists workers by referring them to the proper agency or organization for help and by working with those agencies. I guess one could say that if any federal or local law enforcement agent disregarded the Morton Memo then they could also lose their job, be reprimanded? Please read Jim's letter -it clearly explains the function and need of the Ombudsman Office. Your twist is a poor defense for closing it.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like SW has a bad attitude since he's been suspended by all courts in the CNMI and has to lash out at the only office staffed with more professional expertise than he ever displayed.

Anonymous said...

12:33 That was my exact thought! Isn't it ironic that some of the workers had to seek help from the ombudsman because Steve W. ripped them off. Took their money and failed to show up for hearings, etc. Didn't he trash the office in the MV also? Pathetic!