November 4, 2013
"Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution." United Nations Declaration of Human Rights
Delay, delay, delay. That is the story of the foreign contract workers and nonresidents who have called the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands their home for many years and decades.
Delay of regular wages, delay of overtime wages, delay of the scheduled federal minimum wage increase, delay of upgraded status, delay of basic human and civil rights, and a delay of justice describes the ongoing story of the struggling, disenfranchised underclass who make up a majority of the population in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).
The newest delay being pushed is a delay to apply U.S. asylum laws to the CNMI. Add another delay to the heap of outrageous delays.
U.S. asylum laws should and must apply to the CNMI and every place on U.S. soil. For three decades the CNMI Government, with the cooperation of the U.S. Government, has allowed the nonresidents to suffer wage theft and the denial of basic human and civil rights. When will the indignities and injustice end?
The U.S. Government has allowed human rights violations on U.S. soil in the CNMI, even as it has chastised other nations for violating human rights. In January 2015 asylum laws are finally scheduled to apply to the CNMI allowing asylum applications to be accepted.
It should not be surprising that Delegate Sablan and Governor Inos, the Kings of Delay, want to delay the implementation of the law. The delay duo wrote to President Obama to plead their case. From the Saipan Tribune:
It’s been seven months since Sablan and Gov. Eloy S. Inos jointly wrote a letter to the Obama administration, asking for an extension of the CNMI’s exemption from accepting asylum applications beyond Jan. 1, 2014*, to deter tourists from claiming asylum when they are admitted to the islands under the visa waiver program. *Note: the correct date for the asylum law to be applied is Jan. 1, 2015.Excuses that Chinese tourists would flood the CNMI seeking asylum is the alleged reason the elected officials support a delay. It is a mystery to me why the U.S. even allowed a visa waiver from China considering the country's deplorable human rights record. Stop the Chinese and Russian visa waiver programs, but do not prohibit legitimate asylum seekers from completing an application on U.S. soil.
More Evidence That the Visa Waiver Program Should End
The CNMI is in the international spotlight again. This time for possible human rights violations of pregnant foreign nationals. In recent months, pregnant Chinese tourists have been routinely stopped at the Saipan International Airport and returned to China.
The CNMI elected officials and business owners lobbied for Chinese and Russian visa waivers, but with that wave of tourists came a huge surge in the birthing industry. Hundreds of foreign nationals are getting 45-day tourist visa waivers and heading to the CNMI to give birth to a future U.S. citizen.
U.S.A. Today reported:
Overall births in the Northern Marianas have been falling, but the Marianas Variety newspaper reports that births to ethnic Chinese rose 175% between 2010 and 2012 and last year outnumbered those of any other ethnicity. . .
. . .Today, Saipan, the largest island, receives about eight charter flights a week from the Chinese cities of Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing with Wuhan and other cities set for connections too. And many businesses cater specifically to the maternity traffic.
The operator of one Saipan guesthouse told Radio Free Asia that she hosted 50 Chinese mothers last year, charging them $11,000 for accommodations, travel, translation help and some medical care, though most also incurred around $10,000 in other medical bills.
Most of those flights are organized by Century Tours, a company owned by Hong Kong's Tan family, who previously pioneered the islands' garment business and own several Saipan hotels.In September 2013, CNMI Governor Inos said that "some 20 pregnant tourists were sent back home in recent months because they had documentation problems."
How many tourists who were not pregnant were sent back with documentation problems? How did these pregnant tourists get a visa if their documents were not in order? Isn't this visa waiver program a bad idea?
Imagine if a pregnant U.S. tourist was denied entry to a country because of her pregnancy. I am amazed that the U.S. Department of Justice has not weighed in on the CNMI's policy of not allowing pregnant Chinese tourists to enter U.S. soil. The policy is obviously discriminatory and violates the women's basic human rights. Are pregnant tourists of other nationalities not admitted to the CNMI?
Chinese tour companies, travel agents, U.S. federal officials and CNMI and U.S. elected leaders are working together to stop pregnant Chinese women from entering Saipan in order to keep their visa waiver program. Once again the CNMI is seeking a way to skirt federal law. One news outlet reported:
Inos and the islands' non-voting congressman in Washington have appealed to the Department of Homeland Security to deny entry to so-called "birth tourists."
In response, U.S. immigration has been passing the word directly to Chinese travel companies to discourage maternity traffic. Now, notes with certain Saipan flights and travel packages on the popular Chinese travel website Ctrip say purchase by pregnant mainland women is no longer allowed following notices from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.Is this a violation of federal law? Attempting to keep pregnant foreign tourists from visiting Saipan may led to some nasty backlash.
The CNMI elected leaders and businessmen want to enjoy all of the benefits of being a member of the American family, but want none of the responsibilities. Over the years they have asked to be excused from many U.S. laws that protect workers and individual rights –from federal minimum wage laws, from labor laws, from immigration laws, from asylum laws. The U.S. taxpayers even pay for the CNMI's federal programs because CNMI residents are except from paying federal income tax!
We Are Special
'We are special' is the rallying cry (or whine) that CNMI elected officials and their lobbyists use whenever they plead for exemptions. The ignorant U.S. officials who hear this CNMI mantra seldom take the time to investigate the issues.
For decades the CNMI leaders have promoted the CNMI as 'special' and have convinced U.S. lawmakers that the CNMI should be allowed to have a different set of laws than those that apply to other U.S. states and territories. Still the present delay team of Sablan and Inos seem to have mastered the technique.
The 'special' treatment of allowing the CNMI to have its own set of immigration laws has served as an embarrassment to the United States as human rights and labor violations of nonresidents human rights made international news. The 'special' treatment allowed tens of thousands of innocent foreign workers to be cheated and scammed, and hundreds of violating employers to avoid prosecution. The 'special' treatment has kept the vast majority of the private sector workforce living far below poverty level as the CNMI federal minimum wage was kept at the inhumane level of $5.55 an hour. The 'special treatment' time and time again was at a cost of the reputation of the United States and at the expense of the well being of innocent nonresidents. The 'special' treatment has no place in asylum laws. The 'special' treatment must end.