The CNMI's Nonresidents' Immigration Progress: One step forward, two steps backward

September 15, 2014

Will a permanent immigration status ever be granted to the nonresident workers in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)?

A vast majority of the nonresident workers have lived and worked in the CNMI for over five years, many for most of their adult lives. They literally built the CNMI. They keep the economy strong, yet they remain disenfranchised with uncertain futures and no pathway to citizenship.

Of all of the categories of immigrants in the U.S. immigration reform debate, perhaps the most deserving of a pathway to citizenship must be the CNMI's legal, long term nonresidents. After decades of appeals, hearings, petitions, demonstrations, congressional testimony and political debates the CNMI's legal, long term nonresidents are not any closer to justice than they were when their plight was first exposed in the early 1990's.

The U.S. Congress does not function. President Obama has reneged on his promise to take executive action on immigration by the summer. Sadly, over the years the two steps forward, one step backward march to justice for the CNMI's legal nonresidents has become one step forward, two steps backward.

Members of Congress recognize U.S. citizens who pay taxes, but cannot vote (as they should), but do not recognize non-citizens who have paid taxes for decades and cannot become citizens (as they should).

At a time when most middle class Americans cannot afford a vacation, members of the U.S. Congress add more vacation days to their calendar each year.  During the ridiculously long summer recess many members of Congress have revived the junkets made famous by Jack Abramoff and his cronies.  Indeed, seven influential Republican members of the dysfunctional U.S. Congress and others (wives? staff?) used a U.S. military plane to take a summer junket to the Pacific. CNMI Delegate Gregorio Sablan, considered a Democrat in Washington, DC and an Independent in the CNMI,  joined  the Republicans congressmen on the junket.

The congressmen made stops in Australia, New Zealand and Saipan on the taxpayer funded trip.

From Delegate Sablan's website

During the visit to the CNMI, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), Chair of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee discussed the scheduling of H.R. 4296, the bill introduced by Delegate Sablan that would continue the CNMI's E-2C visa program and extend the exemption from accepting asylum applications until 2019 among other provisions.

Since 2009, the CNMI has enjoyed a visa waiver program with both China and Russia, two countries known for their human rights violations. Politicians and business leaders want to keep the tourist dollars that result in . If the bill does not pass, asylum applications will be accepted in the CNMI after January 1, 2015.

From The Saipan Tribune:
The CNMI is concerned that allowing the law’s provision on asylum to apply as scheduled would open the floodgates for asylum seekers coming here as tourists, including under a U.S. visa waiver program that could also potentially derail the parole program for Chinese and Russian tourists, among other things. 
An equally serious concern is catching the ire of the Chinese government, which could pull the plug on airlines servicing the China-CNMI route and could hurt the islands’ tourism numbers. 
In the past, most applicants for refugee protection and asylum, for example, were from China. They claimed they would be persecuted or killed for political reasons if they are sent back to China. 
Tourists from China and Russia can stay in the CNMI for up to 45 days without being required to secure a U.S. visa—a DHS program that has helped boost the islands’ tourism numbers.
Forget human rights. Keep those tourist dollars.

During their stop in the CNMI, the Congressmen were wined and dined by Governor Inos and met with influential members of the CNMI business community.

From the Saipan Tribune:
Hastings said he’s very much aware of the issues involved even before he got to Saipan because his committee has jurisdiction over the bill, and the CNMI’s delegate, Sablan, talks to him on a regular basis. 
“But it is always good to have local people express to you the importance (of the bill). When we hear from people on the ground, that’s a very important step. But I was aware of the issue and our Committee has already acted on that bill so it’s not like we didn’t know about it,” he said. 
Hastings added that the bill’s provision extending the CNMI’s exemption from accepting asylum applications is also “very important to the people here so that will very likely stay in the bill.”
From another article:
A pending bill seeks to extend beyond 2014 the CNMI’s exemption from accepting asylum applications to help protect the now recovering tourism industry. The bill also seeks to extend beyond 2014 both the E2-C investor visa program and the foreign worker program, along with an extension of the CNMI and Guam’s exemption from the national H visa cap. 
Among the CNMI business leaders that got to sit down and talk to the visiting members of Congress were Duty Free Shoppers’ Marian Aldan-Pierce, Joeten Group of Companies’ Norman Tenorio, Triple J’s Robert Jones, McDonald’s Joe Ayuyu, Delta Air Lines’ Chris Concepcion, Saipan Chamber of Commerce president Alex Sablan, Dr. Vicente Aldan, and Delta Management’s Jim Arenovski. 
The governor was also joined by other government officials, including House Speaker Joseph Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan), Senate President Ralph Torres (R-Saipan), Northern Marianas College President Dr. Sharon Hart, and Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Perry Tenorio.
Of course, the junket goers, like those scandalous junket goers from the 1990's led by the likes of former U.S. Congressional members like Representatives Tom DeLay (R-TX) and Rep. John Dolittle (R-CA), did not meet with any representatives from the island's most populous group, the legal, long term nonresidents, the CNMI's de facto citizens. After all, politically, socially and legally they are considered mere labor units with no voice.

If the truth be told, the legal, long term nonresidents are the most influential group in the Northern Marinas. They determine the fate of the economy. These loyal and skilled workers make up the majority of the private workforce. They are essential in growing the tourist industry, in building and maintaining the infrastructure; in treating patients at the Commonwealth Health Center and are vital employees in all of the CNMI's major businesses and services.

Earlier this year,  members of the U.S. Congress ensured the nonresident workers' poverty and the business owners' prosperity by passing a bill  that would delay the scheduled increase of the CNMI's deplorable federal minimum wage, which is now $5.55. Hypocritically, the Democrats who claim that they support minimum wage increase for U.S. workers joined Republicans in suppressing the minimum wage is the U.S. territory where business owners rule.

Forget justice, keep those legal, long term nonresident workers disenfranchised and working at poverty level wages so the business owners and residents can enjoy the fruits of their labor.

One step forward, two steps backward. Nothing will change until the American people demand change. We need to get the story of the plight of the CNMI's legal nonresidents out to the world. They deserve a pathway to citizenship. That is what I am working on now. Join me in the name of justice and democracy.


Anonymous said...

It seems that your still singing the same old song. Nothing is new so why bother.

Everyone knows that after the Mid Term elections, Republicans will rule both Houses. The President will be nothing but a lame duck.

Immigration Reform: One Baby Step Forward, Five Adult Step Backward. Nothing will change because the American people don't want change.

Wendy Doromal said...

September polls indicate that over 54% of Americans support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented aliens. Republicans have blocked immigration reform in the House for years.

Anonymous said...

Non-immigrant workers in CNMI are not only cheated by abusive employers but also by CNMI government. CNMI government failed to let US government know the background of long-term non-immigrant workers when federal immigration law PL 110-229 was passed. There are law abiding non-immigrant workers in CNMI who pay local tax and federal tax (US Social security system). Most non-immigrant workers got 40 points credit of US Social security. It takes at least a 10 years of continue service to reach up to 40 points credit in US social security system. This data is still available but CNMI government never intended to deliver this to Federal government. Why did Mr. Kilili-CNMI congressman-Washington DC not introduce a single immigration bill to modify U.S Public law 110-229 or to grant permanent immigration status to these non-immigrant workers in CNMI to US Congress? It was not done because he also supports long-term non-immigrant workers to continue suffer under discriminatory and inhuman CW program. Human being must be respected equally and are deserved for basic fundamental rights. Only in CNMI, It is not seen. Let the world know about this. Spread the word to United nations, US Congress & Senate and U.S president. Never give up for your basic rights. Freedom for long-term non-immigrant workers from tyranny is needed in CNMI.

Anonymous said...

There will be no improved pathway for contract workers in the CNMI in the near future or any future. Those clamoring for Federal takeover were literally in a daze when they actually took the time to read the law itself: Contract worker numbers will be zero on a given date. That sure doesn't sound supportive of a pathway to citizenship to me. Then amazingly the advocates found ways to interpret the Federal law to their own liking ! During the "Unity March" lawyers got richer, advocates got famous and the contract workers were and are still slaves. The junket trips are nothing new to anyone Wendy. That trip probably cost the US taxpayers five million or more.

Anonymous said...

CNMI alien workers adult kids as well spouse do not vote for kilili sablan.he is a player to do so.he is just like past governer not vote him supporter also...he bought one of the chinese greencard holders to do alien workers on shackled play card on saipan parade.he did to get political vote bank for his personal game...he is against of people freedom not vote him....amen

Anonymous said...

U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, in his e-newsletter, reported today September 22, 2014 that the U.S. Senate on Thursday added language extending three Northern Marianas immigration policies to H.R.83, an insular areas energy bill, then passed the combined bill and sent it back to the U.S. House. According to Kilili, the three policies — a bar on claims of asylum in the NMI, an exemption from the numerical cap on H visas for the Marianas, and extending the E-2CNMI investor visa — will all expire on December 31, 2014. Again he intentionally did not include “CNMI immigration provision from the Comprehensive immigration reform bill that was passed by U.S Senate in June 2013”. He could have included this to provide relief to these long-term non-immigrant workers in CNMI but he did not. Does anybody know why? He made his points clear in the local newspaper and wants U.S citizen to replace them gradually. Good luck! Mr. Kilili. Your decision to add 3 languages and “exclude CNMI immigration provision for the time being” to energy bill was totally selfish, self-centered and politically inhuman. Your golden points will be noted in the CNMI history forever.

Anonymous said...

1:34 "Does Anyone know why?" Of course it's because it does not serve his primary purpose of keeping his own job. He cold give a damn about the workers or justice.