June 19, 2013
The foreign investors were not mentioned in the U.S. Senate bill 's CNMI provision and will likely will not be mentioned in the House version either. According to sources, Delegate Sablan did not and will not specifically include them in comprehensive immigration legislation.
The investors are considering hiring a lobbyist for a large sum of money, but that move will unlikely help their cause. Unfortunately, there is an antiquated and senseless tradition in the U.S. Congress where members bow to the wishes of the member whose district is "affected" by the legislation. This unwritten rule supposedly prohibits others from interfering in local matters, even when human rights, justice and moral issues are on line. This time-honored code of "don't interfere in my business and I won't interfere in yours" may also be used as an excuse to avoid conflict in the "good ol' boys" club. Whatever, it is unlikely that the foreign investors will see their status reconciled under current pending legislation.
These investors will be forced to leave the CNMI in December 2014 or 5 years later if the flawed CNMI-Only Transitional Worker Program is extended. Unfair they cry, and they are right. If the current Senate immigration bill is signed into law, an estimated 12,000 -16,000 CNMI legal, long-term nonresidents would receive a pathway to citizenship. Also, under the bill, an estimated 11 million undocumented aliens would receive a pathway to citizenship. There is no provision for the CNMI investors or EC-2 holders.
From the Saipan Tribune:
“We believe extension is a trap. We're asked to stay for more years, but after waiting for five more years or so, we will still have uncertain status. We've been here 10 years, 15 years,” one of the E2-C investors said.
They repeatedly said if the U.S. Congress is giving pathway to citizenship to undocumented aliens, “why not give the same to legal long-term investors” in the CNMI which they said is “a part of the United States.”
They added that they do not plan on running for office when they get improved status.
“We don't want to wait any more. If there's only extension, we might as well go to Guam and other U.S. places. But if they grant improved status, we will stay and continue to invest here, continue to hire workers here,” one of them added.The investors, who the news media says threatened to pull out an estimated $20 million and leave the CNMI may be wise to do so. They may have better luck in a U.S. locality that is more socially, politically and economically stable.
Since 1990, under the U.S. EB-5 Program, the U.S. Government has granted green cards to foreigners who invest $500,000 in a U.S. business and employ a minimum of 10 U.S. citizens. However, few CNMI investors have qualified under this program.
The legal, longterm small business investors who were lured to the CNMI, made the islands their home and contributed so much for years and decades do not qualify for green cards even though some of them estimate that over the years they have invested even more than $500,000 in the CNMI. The foreign investors would have to be a new business investing $500,000 to qualify under the EB-5 Program.
The CNMI's small business investors agree that an extension of the flawed CNMI-Only Transitional Worker Program would not help them. One investor said an extension would just prolong their agony and "keep us on our toes."
From the Saipan Tribune:
Christine K. Lee, a long-term Korean investor with E2-C status, earlier called for improved status for E2-C investors in the CNMI.
“I believe CNMI investors deserve better and should be granted immediate U.S. citizenship instead,” Lee said.
Another option to avoid the mass exodus of E2-C investors is to extend the E2-C program beyond 2014.
But the CNMI Chinese Investors Association as well as Korean E2C investors including Lee oppose extending the E2C program.
Tang said that extending the program will only prolong the “uncertainty” and “instability” in the CNMI whereas an improved status will help stabilize the economy.
“We want an improved status and we want to stay here in the CNMI,” one of the investors said.These spokespersons are correct. An extension of a flawed program is no help, unless the program itself is overhauled to eliminate the flaws. A guest worker program must include a pathway to citizenship to be moral and just. Without such a provision, the program is unethical and undemocratic, regarding laborers as replaceable commodities.
Any foreign investor thinking of dropping money in the CNMI would be wise to look at the treatment of the current investors and think twice.
Shame on the local and federal officials for not coming to the defense of these legal foreign investors who have made the CNMI their home. They have demonstrated their loyalty and commitment through the many contributions they have made to the CNMI over the years and decades. They deserve to be included in any comprehensive immigration reform legislation!