May 28, 2014
As predicted, U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez extended the seriously flawed CNMI-Only Guest Worker Program for another 5 years. The program is extended until 2019.
While the bureaucrats, politicians and business owners applaud and celebrate the renewal of a program that provides cheap skilled nonresident workers, most of whom have lived and worked in the CNMI for decades, the nonresident workers can look forward to five more years of uncertainty and angst with year-to-year renewals and no stability for themselves and their families.
The moral solution to maintaining the CNMI's economic stability and ensuring a stable private sector workforce, would have been for the U.S. Congress to follow the 2010 U.S. Department of Interior recommendation and grant permanent residency status to all legal, long term nonresident workers who make up more than 90% of the private workforce.
Since the U.S. Congress has been, and continues to be, a divided and dysfunctional body that can accomplish nothing of significance, I suppose the U.S. DOL figured they had to act. But why a five year renewal? Why didn't the DOL extend the troublesome program for one year and push the U.S. Congress to amend U.S. P.L. 110-229 to include a pathway to citizenship for the legal nonresidents?
According to P.L. 110-229 this is the only time the program can be extended. After December 31, 2019 it ends unless the law is amended.
The program will continue with all of its flaws, including the conspicuous absence of a pathway to citizenship for the legal, long term nonresident workers who have worked and lived in the CNMI for years and decades. Additionally, the problematic program restricts the nonresidents' travel, forces them to jump through bureaucratic hoops to take a vacation, and prohibits them from working while they are waiting for their CW renewal to be approved.
The CNMI-Only Transitional Guest Worker Program is costly to both the employers and the nonresident workers. However, the human cost is the most disturbing element of the defective program. Once again, U.S. officials and policy makers prove that they regard the CNMI's essential nonresidents as mere labor units.
The words of the CNMI elected officials prove that they regard the nonresidents as work units, not as people. When speaking about the extension politicians and leaders emphasized economic stability and security and disregarded the stability and security of the nonresidents.
Delegate Sablan's press release states:
“Five years may seem like a long time. But it will not be easy to whittle away the remaining 10,000 foreign employees in the Northern Marianas. Many have specialized skills and decades of experience in their fields and with their current employers. And with the economy growing the demand for labor will increase."Wood is whittled, not people. The words further dehumanize the nonresident workforce.
Read the entire Press Release from Delegate Gregorio Sablan:
Deadline on Extension Closer in Political Chess Game
Eliminate the Need to Extend the CNMI Guest Worker Program