August 26, 2013
P.L. 110-229 allows for a five year extension of the CNMI-only guest worker program. But why extend something that has turned out to be problematic, and in many instances inhumane? Why extend a program that has created so much angst for the legal, long-term foreign workers, most of whom have served the CNMI community for decades?
There is one humane and just way to end the uncertainty related to labor issues in the CNMI. That is to follow the recommendations from the 2010 U.S. Department of Interior report and grant all of the legal, long-term nonresident workers permanent residency. Among the recommendations in the Department of Interior Report was this statement:
"Consistent with the goals of comprehensive immigration reform, we recommend that the Congress consider permitting alien workers who have lawfully resided in the CNMI for a minimum period of five years to apply for long-term status under the immigration and nationality laws of the United States."The mandated DOI report that recommended permanent residency for the legal, long-term foreign workers was given to the U.S. Congress in 2010 to act upon. Yet to date no action has been taken to fulfill the recommendations.
There is no reason to continue the dance –the music stopped a long time ago. There is no reason to continue to keep people who have lived and worked in the CNMI legally for more than five years as a disenfranchised underclass. So yes, by all means end the uncertainty. The right way to do it, the only just way to do it is to push for permanent residency status for every legal, long-term resident who has resided in the CNMI for five or more years.