November 20, 2013
It is ironic that the same week that our nation marked 150 years since President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, in the farthest corner of the United States, the CNMI House passed Resolution HR 18-34 promoting racism and division.
The xenophobic resolution calls upon the U.S. Congress to deny legal, long-term nonresidents of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) any pathway to citizenship based on illogical racist ideals:
The Covenant does not declare Chamorros and Carolinians as elite U.S. citizens who can decide who should and who should not be granted U.S. citizenship. The Covenant does not state that the Chamorros and Carolinians in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands are superior or should have more say in the political affairs of the local government than other U.S. residents who live there.
However, Ms. Ogumoro the author of H.R. 18-34, is so egocentric that she considers the 'people of the Northern Mariana Islands' to be the Chamorros and Carolinians. There are 12 other legislators that agree with her. The dirty dozen appear to be the racist majority in the House of Representatives.
What the Covenant actually states: "SECTION 103. The people of the Northern Mariana Islands will have the right of local self-government and will govern themselves with respect to internal affairs in accordance with a Constitution of their own adoption."
The law does not state 'the indigenous' people or 'Chamorros and Carolinian people' it states, 'the people'. In fact, I cannot locate the words 'indigenous', 'Chamorro' and 'Carolinian' anywhere within the body of the Covenant.
Section 503 of the law gives the U.S. Congress the authority to control immigration in the United States. Nowhere in the law does it say that the CNMI Legislature or people have the right to decide who enters or stays in the CNMI. The U.S. Congress does.
The Covenant states: "SECTION 503. The following laws of the United States, presently inapplicable to the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, will not apply to the Northern Mariana Islands except in the manner and to the extent made applicable to them by the Congress by law after termination of the Trusteeship Agreement: " ( a ) except as otherwise provided in Section 506, the immigration and naturalization laws of the United States."
U.S.P.L. 110-229, the Consolidated Natural Resources Act, applied U.S. immigration law to the CNMI. One would think that Ms. Ogomuro and the 12 other lawmakers would understand this law.
The resolution decries the fact that according to the CNMI 2010 census there were 53,883 people in the CNMI with 29% or 15,363 being Chamorro and Carolinian. It states, "As a consequence, the Chamorros and Carolinians of the Northern Mariana Islands will ultimately become powerless and minority voice in their own homeland."
Who decided that the Chamorros and Carolinians would become a minority in the CNMI? Not the U.S. Congress! It was the Chamorro and Carolinian lawmakers with the approval of the 'people' who created a guest worker program and brought in tens of thousands of foreign workers to 'grow the economy'. It was those same people who allowed thousands of foreigners to be cheated and abused on U.S. soil. Thanks to their actions and inactions, the Northern Marianas is synonymous with labor abuse, Jack Abramoff schemes and corruption. Thanks to them they are a "minority in their own homeland."
The resolution states, "Section 2109 of S. 744 and any other legislations that infringed upon the social, economic and political rights of the indigenous Chamorro and Carolinian people who are of Northern Marianas descent be addressed pursuant to Article 1, Section 105 and Section 902 of the Covenant."
Surely, the rights that have been infringed upon have been the rights of the CNMI's nonresidents who have seen their human rights and civil rights denied over and over and over under the watchful eyes of the CNMI Government for decades.
Politicians like Ogumoro and other followers of the disgraced ex-Governor Benigno Fitial welcomed tens of thousands of skilled nonresidents to the CNMI to labor, to build the economy, to live as indentured servants in the undemocratic and un-American society that they created. The haters tolerate nonresidents as long as they can ensure that they remain second-class citizens that can be perpetually dominated. Too many in the CNMI treat the nonresidents as sub-human proletarians who exist in a system that is one step above slavery. This must end.
To deny permanent residency to dedicated and legal nonresidents who have lived and worked in a locality for decades for the reasons stated in Resolution 18-34 is beyond bigoted. The CNMI is still stinging from the tarnished reputation earned by decades of well-documented labor abuses, schemes with felon lobbyists and corruption and theft of greedy local politicians. It is amazing that so many elected CNMI officials signed their names to a document that will bring further disgrace to the CNMI.
Also interesting is the fact that some of the same people who oppose any form of U.S. status for the 12,000 or so legal, long term nonresidents –the de facto citizens of the CNMI– want the flawed U.S. CNMI-Only Nonresident Worker Program to be extended for 5 years.
The dirty dozen may be using their resolution to get votes from some equally bigoted constituents, but historians will record their words for what they truly are. The resolution's words are nothing less than a racist attack on an essential, loyal and dedicated segment of the CNMI society.
Since the resolution passed a renewed debate has stirred in the CNMI. Both Saipan papers have published numerous passionate letters to the editor expressing opposition to the resolution.
Kelvin Rodeo wrote a lengthy letter to the editor calling the resolution racist and pointing out the illogical statements within the resolution. Read the entire letter. It makes excellent points, among them is this one:
“How is the resolution racist?” The whole resolution is very anti-foreigner from the start, with the words “alien workers, their families, and persons of other ethnic origin or race” being used in the introduction to the resolution with the context of wanting to prevent said groups of people from gaining U.S. permanent residency.
This same set of words is used eight times throughout the entire resolution, each time trying to paint these people as villains who are trying to screw up the established order of things or take rights away from the Chamorro and Carolinian people. Those of you who know at least one foreign worker—and I’d imagine that’s just about everyone in our Commonwealth—know that the foreign workers are trying to do no such thing. They do not seek to take away anyone’s rights, they only seek to gain equal footing with the people whose economy and infrastructure they worked hard to help build over the past few decades.
Is it too much to ask to be considered equals and be granted equal status, considering the countless hours that our brothers and sisters have worked toward building our economy and infrastructure over the past few decades? These people have toiled away for the benefit of our Commonwealth for many years, and at times many of them have even been subjected to labor abuses, but they still stuck with us and helped us grow through the years.
However, instead of thanking them for their irreplaceable service to us and our islands, now members of our own House of Representatives have the audacity to adopt a resolution that asks the U.S. House of Representatives to remove the provision in the comprehensive immigration reform bills that would allow our brothers and sisters to become U.S. permanent residents and eventually U.S. citizens like us? Do our elected representatives have no sense of human decency in them? Are these seemingly heartless, ungrateful people really the people we want to be representing us?CNMI resident Shalmaine Pua agreed with Kelvin, and in her own letter she shreds the resolution's claims that the Chamorros and Carolinians are somehow victims. The victims in this story have always been and remain the foreign contract workers who were lured to U.S. soil to pursue the American Dream, but found instead a nightmare. From Ms. Pua's letter:
This whole “Chamorros and Carolinians only” idea needs to end. It’s utterly ridiculous. Your own children are very diverse; you are diverse. The last full Chamorro and Carolinian died long before I was born. Trust me, I actually paid attention in NMI History. Doesn’t the lack of brown eyes and not so black hair give you enough of a hint? And what are you really protecting?
The “foreigners” were lured onto our islands with false hope. They spent their life’s worth with the impression that they have a good job waiting for them when they come to Saipan and they are able to feed their family and provide for them. What they had waiting for them was a trap in slave labor.
Did anyone complain when they were the sole key of one of our past main economies, the garment factories? Which, mind you, they were treated very inhumanely, with the employers treating them as less than humans; all for cheap labor and profits. Did anyone care that that was going on? No. We turned our heads away because their slave labor brought in the money right? They were trapped on Saipan, not allowed to return home because they had a debt to pay and when the U.S. saw what was going on and shut them down, they were stuck here with no way of going back home. And because the garment factories collapsed and the economy started to crumble, everyone decided “let’s blame them for not being able to get a job! They’re stealing all our benefits! We are the sole owners of these lands, and they should go back to where they came from!” It was easier to blame them.Other CNMI residents attacked the resolution. Segundo Castro's letter to the editor said in part:
The United States Congress has neither the time to listen to bigotry nor any racist resolution trying to deprive other ethnicities advancement in our island chain. The last time I check, the Mariana Island chain belongs to the people of the CNMI collectively and whoever is claiming that the CNMI is rightfully theirs is a bunch of bigots. The CNMI House of Representatives Resolution 18-34 is a scare tactic to win an election and our elected officials are positioning themselves to get re-elected.Alexandro Sablan, another CNMI resident, wrote an eloquent letter to the editor to remind readers that all men are created equal. He saluted the five "statesmen that voted against the resolution that is against the granting of improved status for long-term guest workers", the governor, lieutenant governor, Delegate Sablan and the members of the Senate who support improved status.
A hundred and fifty years after the Gettysburg Address was penned, one would have thought that our country would have embraced the words of Lincoln and advanced from racist ideals.
President Obama wrote a 272-word, hand-written response to President's Lincoln's 272-word Gettysburg Address.
In the evening, when Michelle and the girls have gone to bed, I sometimes walk down the hall to a room Abraham Lincoln used as his office. It contains an original copy of the Gettysburg Address, written in Lincoln’s own hand.
I linger on these few words that have helped define our American experiment: "a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
Through the lines of weariness etched in his face, we know Lincoln grasped, perhaps more than anyone, the burdens required to give those words meaning. He knew that even a self-evident truth was not self executing; that blood drawn by the lash was an affront to our ideals; that blood drawn by the sword was in painful service to those same ideals.
He understood as well that our humble efforts, our individual ambitions, are ultimately not what matter; rather, it is through the accumulated toil and sacrifice of ordinary men and women—those like the soldiers who consecrated that battlefield—that this country is built, and freedom preserved. This quintessentially self made man, fierce in his belief in honest work and the striving spirit at the heart of America, believed that it falls to each generation, collectively, to share in that toil and sacrifice.
Through cold war and world war, through industrial revolution and technological transformation, through movements for civil rights and women’s rights and workers rights and gay rights, we have. At times, social and economic change have strained our union. But Lincoln’s words give us confidence that whatever trials await us, this nation and the freedoms we cherish can, and shall, prevail.It would serve the CNMI well if the House's dirty dozen would read and contemplate the meaning of the words penned by these two Presidents. If the CNMI is to advance, its leaders must abandon their divisive and racist positions and instead defend the basic rights and freedoms of every person who calls the Northern Mariana Islands their home.