July 6, 2014
|From The Saipan Tribune, by Jayson Camacho|
An alien worker carried a sign that read, "Alien worker we deserve improved status" on one side of the sign and "Justice" on the other. Improved status and justice have been denied the legal, long term foreign workers for decades. Good for him!
But, apparently the foreign worker who wore shackles and chains while carrying the sign calling for improved status hit some nerves among at least one CNMI politician. U.S. Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan was quoted by The Saipan Tribune as criticizing the man:
Sablan said the depiction is “false” because no one is being forced to remain in the CNMI. He said the depiction would hurt rather than help the cause of long-term foreign workers for an improved immigration status.
“Every individual here has the right to free expression, that’s protection [provided for by] both the U.S. and NMI Constitutions. I think it’s an appropriate display of a statement that is false. No one in the Northern Mariana Islands—whether you are a United States citizen or a citizen of a third country—are in shackles here. No one here is being forced to remain here, so that was a wrong message,” Sablan told Saipan Tribune.
Sablan, who ensured that national immigration reform bills would have provisions giving an opportunity for qualified long-term legal aliens to apply for “green card” which is pathway to U.S. citizenship, said it’s “unfortunate” that someone would resort to a misleading and false depiction of nonresidents’ situations in the CNMI. “Not the sign, but the fact that’s he in chain and lock. That doesn’t help. It hurts him rather that it helps him. Just untrue and it doesn’t help to advance the conversation on the matter. Unfortunately, he’s wrong,” the delegate added.
As for the word “justice” on the placard, Sablan asked, “Justice before the court? Justice for what? No one here is under any restraint to stay here. Everyone is free. They can get up and leave any time they want to.”I disagree with Sablan. I think the man's depiction is accurate and courageous. Shackles and chains can represent many things. Chained and shackled to a disenfranchised status, for instance. How long have foreigners in the CNMI been chained to the nonresident worker status; been disenfranchised; been denied of basic rights; been forced to jump through bureaucratic hoops to travel to see their own families? Years? Decades?
While no one is "forced" to stay in the CNMI, as the delegate stated, many thousands of the CNMI's legal long term foreign workers have spent their entire adult lives working in the CNMI, positively contributing to the community and bolstering the economy. They stay with the hope that one day the U.S. Congress will do the right thing and they will finally be granted the improved status that they deserve! They stay because they no longer have a "home" to return to! They stay because there are more opportunities for their U.S. citizen children.
The delegate thinks the lock and chains are "just untrue". I think they are spot on!
The delegate also misunderstood the protester's call for "justice":
He said, "As for the word “justice” on the placard, Sablan asked, “Justice before the court? Justice for what? No one here is under any restraint to stay here. Everyone is free. They can get up and leave any time they want to.”Justice does not just mean freedom of movement. Justice is a guest worker program with a pathway to citizenship. Justice is having a vote and representation in a land that you have lived more years than in the country where you were born. Justice is being able to travel freely like the "guest" workers in the mainland can –from state to state and to homelands without having to fill out pages of forms or pay fees. Justice is being respected. Justice is being paid a living wage for every hour that one works. Justice is being free from discrimination and xenophobia. Justice is being viewed as a human being rather than as a labor unit. Justice is equality. Justice is having someone ask you what you mean rather than having people interpret what you mean without even having a discussion with you.
As for the man hurting the alien workers' cause or his image. Ridiculous! The only image that may have been further hurt is the image of the CNMI, which is well-known as a place on U.S. soil where foreigners are exploited and treated as disposable commodities.
Ridiculous too is the suggestion that the chains and shackles "don't advance conversation". That representation absolutely is advancing conversation! He got noticed enough for the CNMI's U.S. Delegate to make a lengthy statement to the media.
Congratulations to the courageous protester who obviously got his message across.
Congratulations also to Rita Doca for being named First Princess in the Liberation Day Court!