June 19, 2013
Case in point, Senate Vice-President Victor Hocog's inappropriate response to news that some of the CNMI's legal foreign small business investors were considering leaving the CNMI if they were to remain blocked out of any immigration reform bill that would grant them a pathway to citizenship. He suggested that they "pack up and leave!"
Hocog further stated that he "did not appreciate the threat from the Chinese business community."
The only real threat is from the officials who do not support a pathway to citizenship for these committed and loyal investors. The threat is that after December 2014 they will all be forced to depart the CNMI because they will be out of status. That is unless the flawed CNMI-Only Transitional Worker Program is extended for another five years and then they would be forced to leave in 2019. (The Consolidated Natural Resources Act, PL 110-229 calls for only one five-year extension.) Who in this situation would not be considering looking for greener pastures and a more secure situation for themselves and their families?
Why shouldn't the investors from China, Korea, Japan, the Philippines and other Asian countries who were lured to the CNMI, entered legally, renewed their business licenses and paid taxes for years and decades expect that they too should be included in any comprehensive immigration reform legislation? After all, if 11 million undocumented aliens are included in the Senate's immigration reform bill why aren't 500 or so legal foreign investors and their families included? Why wouldn't they want to cut their losses and leave if there is no hope that they will be granted green cards? Their statement was hardly a threat.
Hocog also asked, "Who brought them here in the first place?"
Did he seriously forget that the CNMI officials lured them to the CNMI?
Hocog said that he doubted that if the investors relocated to Guam it would make any difference. Again, really? If 500 or so businesses shut their doors and the owners and their families departed the CNMI he does not understand that the CNMI economy would suffer? Consider the loss of revenue from permits, licenses and taxes. Consider the loss of goods and services that the businesses have provided. Consider all of the employees that would lose their jobs. Consider the loss of revenue to other businesses in the CNMI, including utilities, stores, banks, gas stations, restaurants, stores, and others. Considering the CNMI has such a small and ever declining population it is surprising that the senator does not understand the economic impact of their departure.
Hocog also arrogantly questioned their contributions, mocking the amount of the investments that they made. How many residents have invested as much as these foreign business owners? How many of them have the skills to open beauty parlors, auto repair shops, tailor and upholstery businesses? Instead of being criticized, they should be shown appreciation and thanks.
Hocog even suggested that these foreign investors may have cheated the CNMI Government out of revenue! From the Marianas Variety:
If they really invested $20 million here, Hocog wonders how many millions of dollars have they been making and not reporting to the government. “And they have the nerve to threaten us?” he asked.Again, the investors did not threaten anyone, but rather voiced one of their options to the uncertain and unstable situation that they are in. To suggest that the foreign business owners are not following the law was way out of line, especially considering that Senator Hocog was sued by the Bank of Saipan for failing to pay a $67,000 loan.
Do the CNMI officials really believe that they can attract serious investors to the CNMI when they treat them with disrespect and address them in a condescending manner? What do they think the investors who return to their homelands will have to say about their experience and treatment in the CNMI? Do not expect it to be anything positive if they are continually unappreciated and attacked for standing up for their beliefs and rights.
Anyone investing in a foreign country or even traveling to a foreign country reads the local newspapers online before pursuing the venture. Over the last few days a very ugly picture of the CNMI's foreign investor climate has been portrayed in the CNMI press.