Kia'aina's Visit to the CNMI

October 15, 2014

In her recent visit to the CNMI, Esther P. Kia’aina, Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Interior's Insular Affairs, said she will "ensure that the voice of the CNMI people is heard by the federal government in connection with issues that concern the islands’ people."

I hope she will listen to the voice of the disenfranchised nonresident workers, investors and their families. These de facto citizens make up a majority of the private workforce. Certainly their voices should be heard. Will she listen? Did she take the time to speak to them?

I knew Esther in the 1990's when she served as a legislative assistant for Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI). She assisted us with helping a 14-year-old Filipino girl who was hired as a club worker in Saipan and forced to perform sex acts with the club's customers. After the  child testified at a U.S. Senate Hearing in 1998, Senator Akaka and his staff was instrumental in helping her to receive asylum.

Senator Akaka and his staff, including Esther, were very vocal in their outrage of the ill-treatment of the CNMI's foreign contract workers. Trips were taken to the CNMI. Bills calling for permanent residency and a pathway to citizenship for the nonresident workers were introduced. Floor speeches were made. Public comments by Senators like Senator Daniel Akaka, representatives like Representative George Miller and others who championed justice for legal, long-term nonresident workers made headlines in the media.

Where are they now? Where are the Senators and Representatives and officials who were so outspoken against the abuses, who were so convinced that the U.S.must do right by these people?

Where does Esther Kia’aina stand? Does she support the self-serving positions of CNMI's elected officials and powerful business owners, the people she took the time to meet with, or does she stand on the side of justice for the long-suffering nonresidents of the CNMI who deserve justice? Should we ask her, or does her silence on the subject say it all?


Anonymous said...

This lady is another Washington politician. She doesn't care about the workers or human rights. She's going to listen to delegate.