January 13, 2015
|Photo by W. L. Doromal ©2008|
Imagine being lured to a country with the promise of financial gain and a secure future only to learn that your company's application for your annual work permit has been denied. Imagine working and living in a country 5, 10, 15 or more years as a skilled workers and upstanding member of society, but because your company has a federal criminal indictment filed against it you are notified that you will have to leave. You are not permitted a chance to transfer to a legitimate company or an opportunity to apply for parole. You will be tossed aside like the other disrespected foreign workers that keep the country's economy flourishing.
Imagine these events take place on U.S. soil under a federal immigration system. Welcome to the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) where long term nonresident workers are viewed as disposal commodities. It's the place on U.S. soil where the nonresident population outnumbers the resident population. The place in the U.S. where the disrespected foreign workers struggle to survive as members of a firmly established disenfranchised underclass.
No immigration system should regard any long term (5 or more years) foreign worker as mere labor units that can be replaced. They should be seen as future citizens. How disappointing that the U.S. a country that claims to be the torch bearer for human rights, supports such a system.
The Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino is a classic example of an exploitative employer. It highlights all that is wrong with the broken immigration system.
Perhaps no one has been more victimized by the wrong doings of the Tinian Dynasty's Hotel and Casino than the 693 innocent foreign contract workers who have been given notice that they are not legally present in the U.S. This despite the fact that their employer continued to employ and pay them without the required CW permits.
A long term Tinian Dynasty employee with three U.S. citizen children contacted me concerning the plight of the company's employees. It appears that since 2012 the Tinian Dynasty employees' CW permits have been denied. Their solution? To allow the employees to work and be paid while filing appeals.
The employees did not even know that their work permits had been denied until they read the story in a local newspaper. One employee told me that about 45 of the company's wait staff employees have had their papers denied since 2012. However, they were not informed that their applications for renewal were twice denied and twice appealed. The employee said that no one knew about denials until it came out in the Marianas Variety in December 2014.
Perhaps as a result of the publicity, in late December 2014 the employer finally gave the workers the USCIS-issued Notice of Decision regarding their applications. The two-page document states in part:
"The nonimmigrant visa petition filed to classify the beneficiary under 8 C.F.R. 214.2 (w) has been denied.How amazing that USCIS has to tell the employees that they are present in the U.S. illegally and have been working illegally.
The decision resulting in the denial of Form 1-129CW leaves the beneficiary without lawful immigration status. Absent an approved application or petition, which would bestow valid immigration status upon the beneficiary he or she is now present in the United States in violation of the law. Failing to maintain valid immigration status or remaining in the United States beyond the expiration of status will affect the beneficiary's ability to return to the United States in the future.If the beneficiary is currently not in a valid immigration status or the date listed on the I-94 has already passed, this Notice of Decision leaves the beneficiary without lawful immigration status and he or she is hereafter in the United States in violation of the law and is requested to depart the United States immediately.
There is no appeal to this Decision. However pursuant to 8 CRF 103.5, a motion can be filed on Form 290B. Such motion must be accompanied by the proper fee and filed within 30 days of this notice.
Please note that if you timely file a motion with USCIS, and if the motion is granted, the petition will be reopened and approved and the beneficiary will be accorded the classification sought."
Several Dynasty employees, represented by the company's attorney Bruce Berline, have filed a lawsuit to sue USCIS. However, it is surprising that the 698 recipients of this document have not considered suing the Tinian Dynasty aka Hong Kong Entertainment for withholding information concerning the status of their applications and jeopardizing their security.
The victims should immediately investigate their ability to qualify for temporary status under President Obama's November 20, 2014 immigration executive order. (Click this link.) Considering that most of the employees have been on U.S. soil since January 1, 2010, have U.S. citizen children and were placed out of status before the executive order, it appears that they qualify. I hope a reputable attorney will assist them in this matter.
Other documents that the employees provided for me explain that USCIS denied Tinian Dynasty's foreign worker permits because of their documented illegal activities. These included a federal lawsuit for violations of the Bank Secrecy Act, persistent labor violations and their action in employing foreign workers even though their permits were expired and their renewal applications were denied and in the appeals process.
The following documents clarify the seriousness of the situation and the fact that USCIS and the Department of Homeland Security do not consider the Tinian Dynasty a 'legitimate' business.
The Tinian Dynasty's attorney Bruce Berline is a key figure in a web of lawsuits concerning the controversial Tinian business. Berline petitioned for former U.S. Assistant Attorney Patrick Smith to serve as co-counsel on the case. The petition was approved by the court on January 9, 2014.
The Federal Government filed 158 charges against the casino: 1 count of conspiracy to cause a financial institution to fail to file a currency transaction report; 1 count of failure to file a suspicious activity report; 1 count of failure to maintain an anti-money laundering program; and 155 counts of failure to file currency transaction reports. The indictment states, "The total dollar amount of reportable currency transactions that were not filed is approximately $138 million."
There is a lot at stake in this lawsuit. The Federal Government demands that if the Tinian Dynasty Casino and Hotel is convicted on one or more of the 157 counts, then it will forfeit the $138 million, and the property - "the Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino, and any leasehold interest, located at One Broadway, Tinian, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands."
Read the indictment:
On December 30, 2014 Attorney Berline filed a request to the federal court to review the U.S. Department of Labor's ruling that Hong Kong Investment owed $191,000 in civil penalties for cheating workers of their wages. Here is the complaint:
Mega Stars Overseas Ltd. was scheduled to take ownership of the Tinian Hotel and Casino and build a new $600 complex on Tinian. However, it has reportedly experienced roadblocks from the Tinian Casino Commission and CNMI Government.
Was Mega Stars conned by the Dynasty's corrupt management and the CNMI's slick politicians? Mega Stars chief executive, Cario Hon stated that in a negotiating to take over ownership of the Tinian Hotel and Casino, it paid over $3 million in back taxes and also paid $1 - 2 million in back wages to the business just to keep it from collapse. Hon invested over $50 million to the Dynasty since 2013. Still the Tinian Gaming Commission has not approved its application for a casino license.
Marianas Stars Entertainment a subsidiary of Mega Stars lost its bid for a Saipan Casino license to Best Sunshine International, a subsidiary of Imperial Pacific Holdings. This was after Governor Inos and Senators Ralph Torres (R-Saipan), Victor Hocog (R-Rota), and Frank Cruz (R-Tinian), enjoyed a "fact finding trip" to Macau and Hong Kong. The politicians claim the trip was funded by Esteem Capital. Shady, regardless of which casino-related company funded it.
From a September 2014 Saipan Tribune article:
It was earlier reported that Mega Stars now owns 99.99 percent of the share capital of Tinian Dynasty Investments Limited. Moreover, TDIL is the sole and beneficial owner of the entire issued share capital of HKE, Hong Kong Entertainment (Overseas) Investments Ltd.In October 2014 it was reported that Macau-based company, Alter City Holdings, Ltd acquired 152 hectares in a Tinian land deal with the CNMI Department of Public Lands. It now competes with Mega Stars, Saipan Jinghua Investment, Inc. and Bridge Investment for a casino license.
Also, in December 2014 the CNMI Senate passed Joint Resolution 18-9 to convince the USCIS to reverse their decision to deny 197 CNMI-only transitional work applications that covered 693 foreign workers. The senators made the point that it's impossible to replace 693 workers considering the lack of enough skilled locals to fill the positions.
The resolution also emphasized the negative economic impact stating:
The Tinian Dynasty’s closure will result in an enormous financial loss considering its annual expenditures which include: payroll $8,592,802; Business Gross Revenue Tax, $1,458,116, Employee Withholding Receipt, $439,030; hotel room tax $588,914, bar tax $25,444; FICA $735,055, Gaming Tax paid to the Tinian municipality $2,396,134; CUC $3,646,134; Suppliers, $3,750; Star Marianas Air $975,000; and Mobil Oil $600,000.The resolution also mentioned the human cost - the 693 victims and their family members. Many of the non-resident employees are parents to U.S. citizen children.
Regardless of the contents, the resolution will have no influence on the decision to be made by USCIS.
The CNMI's push and defense of a casino industry to secure 'easy' revenue is similar to its former push and defense of the garment industry. We all know how that turned out. After violating human rights, civil rights and labor laws; tarnishing the reputation of the U.S.; and exploiting and abusing thousands of foreign workers, the factory doors closed leaving a wake of financial and human destruction. Hopefully, someone in power will ensure that the employee-victims will be humanely granted parole or status.