CNMI Governor Eloy Inos Asks For Help for Foreign Workers

September 3, 2015

Kudos to Governor Eloy Inos for recognizing the need of the foreign workers who suffered losses in Saipan as a result of Typhoon Soudelor. He has asked CNMI Delegate Gregorio (Kilili) Sablan to request that the United Stated Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reconsider the status of the CW (foreign) workers so that they can be eligible for FEMA assistance.

In his letter to Delegate Sablan he stated:
“I thank you for your work diligence, cooperation, during this difficult time for our people. We have made much progress and with your assistance and counsel I believe we have developed an environment of cooperation between local, regional and federal partners” 
“In this spirit of partnership I want to convey to you some areas of need during this recovery stage. First, I know you are keenly aware of the ongoing situation of CW visa holders being ineligible for FEMA individual assistance funding. I am genuinely concerned over the lack of assistance being provided by our federal partners to the many families who are being denied the need they help solely because of their immigration status." 
 “While not widely known to much of the FEMA or USCIS policy makers, the CW program is an important part of our community and CW visa holders were not spared the damaging effects of Typhoon Soudelor. I formally request your assistance in reaching out to USCIS to authorize CW visa holders in the CNMI to receive the help they need to rebuild their lives.
It is encouraging that Governor Inos recognizes that the CWs and their families are an important part of the island community.

It will be interesting to see Sablan's response, and better yet what action he takes for the legal, long-term foreign workers and their families who are de facto citizens.

What could he do? He could introduce an emergency bill that would grant green cards and a pathway to citizenship to every legal, longterm foreign worker who has lived and worked in the CNMI for 5 or more year.

Over and over for two decades, members of the House and Senate and their staffers have told me that when it comes to insular affairs the committees go along with the recommendations of their nonvoting delegates. Let's see if he has the courage to do what is right.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

No offense, but a general observation, Inos looks like Jabba the Hutt. Kudos are in order? For what? Waiting until Saipan is in a state of no return and then realizing your government is dependent on the mercy of others? Why should a typhoon dictate immigration policy concerning contract workers? Green cards and a pathway to citizenship because of a disaster? I guess certain people are looking for any excuse possible to forward their agenda. How about a disaster plan that makes employers responsible for their contract employees including repatriation to their home countries if necessary? As an example, certain hotels provide employee housing and meals for their "contract workers". Given this fact, are any of them (contract workers) trying to "apply" for assistance? Why would they? You have an employer giving you employment, meals and housing - what else do you need? Concerning FEMA assistance, or any other assistance, those contract workers who are applying should be scrutinized to see if they have such assistance. Disaster relief is for people who have suffered a loss. Contract workers who live in employee housing, receive employer meals should not be eligible for assistance unless it comes from the employer. If the employer suffered a loss, let the employer apply for relief. Saipan employers love that cheap labor and psychological control they exploit over desperate individuals. Well, time to accept responsibility for your despicable behaviour and take care of these people under your control. If you can't do that, then maybe a Tinian Dynasty fate should be your outcome.

Anonymous said...

Wendy, there is only one thing, and one thing only that can bring about change in the CNMI when it comes to the "status" issue of contract workers. That one thing is a unified walk-out or "strike". If the contract workers on Saipan opted to form a coalition or "union" of sorts, illegal or otherwise, the whole of the economy in the CNMI would be at their mercy. It's not like the employers could immediately replace them with U.S. citizens (who would want to come there for those wages?). If the Filipino community unified themselves to the point where they could act together, then change is possible. It would take an act of sacrifice, and yes the possibility of being deported - but the end result would be that the CNMI and the USCIS would have to act. Can you imagine the repurcussions from the international news media covering a major walkout & hunger strike of contract workers on a U.S. Commonwealth? Until the contract workers realize this, they will continually be exploited. Change comes from action, not internet blogs. Wendy, you want these workers to have rights? Then organize them, and also get some international legal representation. Change begins with you.

Wendy Doromal said...

12:24

You say, "You have an employer giving you employment, meals and housing - what else do you need? " What employer gives a foreign worker meals? Or even housing? That is not a requirement and few, if any, employers provide such benefits to the vast majority of the CNMI's foreign workers. Most live in substandard housing and to call it even substandard is generous. Are there even building codes on Saipan? If there are they cannot be enforced.

When a person loses a house (rented or owned), and loses employment because the business has no electricity and/or water or was destroyed, that is a huge loss. I do not believe that the US Government should determine assistance in a disaster based on immigration status. There should be some sort of assistance for the de facto citizens. Or maybe you think they should all leave and let every hotel and tourist-related business be closed?

Absolutely, the Saipan employers, and the CNMI and US Governments exploit the CW workers. Set them free -give them green cards -let them qualify for assistance.

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 1:32:

I have done what I can to get justice and status for the CNMI's foreign workers over the last few decades. I travelled to Washington dozens of times to appeal to members of Congress, and a multitude of U.S. officials to institute reform. I travelled to the CNMI. I have sought help from numerous nonprofits and have provided what financial assistance I could to workers. Most of the work I have done on behalf of the foreign workers has been self-funded and the truth is I lack financial resources.

Over and over we have tried to organize workers and they have organized themselves. These are annual contract workers who are regarded as labor units. When a foreign leader gets too loud, he/she is usually terminated and then leaves or becomes less vocal.

Would a hunger strike help? I am not sure it would. Every U.S. citizen of conscience should already be outraged, ashamed and screaming for reform with the present treatment of these people on US soil, but they are silent. This makes me question whether a hunger strike would be effective. Why aren't the people of the U.S. already speaking out against the broken system and the outrageous US laws that keep these LEGAL, LONG TERM foreign workers who exist in a state of perpetual poverty and disenfranchisement? The truth is that the mere distance is an obstacle to justice. The fact that the average American has seen the quality of life for his/her family plummet and most are struggling to live pay check to pay check may also contribute to the apathy, The fact that millionaires and lobbyists run our country and government may be a factor. They seem to see issues through economic, rather than moral or human rights lenses.

I will keep writing and sending letters to officials and those with the power to institute reform and grant status change. I also will maintain this blog. I know many people read this blog because I track the statistics and it has topped 1 million views. I also track where the readers are from and many in Washington read this blog. The site meter indicates readers from the U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Department of State, DHS, Justice etc. Change comes from many things.

Anonymous said...

I know of some employers who do give their employees company housing & meals (hotels). You can look at the DOL website for JVA's and it will tell you which ones provide that in the renewal announcements. I'm not saying every employer does that (few and far between), but again the employers should be held responsible for "contract workers" on island (i.e., the word "contract" = legal & moral responsibility, or quid pro quo BEYOND WAGES for services rendered). Almost sounds like the deep south days of slavery? As far as solving the "cheap labor" & "exploited worker" syndrome, the Philippine Government can issue (albeit quietly) an advisory to P.I. Nationals to avoid working in Saipan. Just like any other economic model, it's all about supply & demand. Dry up the workers, and the employers will be forced to provide better wages and benefits to keep what they have. You can appreciate that Wendy, can't you? Afterall, you are trumpeting the benefits that Unions provide. It's all about organizing and keeping a group of people focused on the objective and not breaking ranks. Problem is, the Filipino's have a unique cultural behaviour - I'm sure you have heard of the analogy about "crabs in the bucket" ? When one crab starts to climb the walls of the bucket, the other crabs grab on and start pulling that crab down. Bad example, but it is hard to organize a group of people who may be engaged as the sole supporter for the family back in Manila (or wherever). As far as granting long term contract workers citizenship, I can understand your passion. To me, our Government could do that on Saipan with no real detriment considering what goes on here in the mainland. But, if you do it in Saipan, you have to apply the rules equally and across the board. That would mean amnesty or immediate citizenship for every "visa overstayer" or "border jumper" here in the mainland who has held a job long term in the U.S. as well. Also, if you did grant U.S. Citizenship to the CW's - how many would stay on Saipan once given a green card? Off point here, and you won't get this from me too often, but yes, I agree - it is shameful that anyone who is suffering a loss of no fault (i.e., natural disaster) and is homeless, hungry, or without some type of comfort and support (no matter of race, creed or color) deserves any and all assistance, no matter what the source. It's called being a human being with some compassion and empathy for your fellow man. On another off point, what I find really interesting is the amount of "military surplus" that sits in various DRMO depots throughout the U.S. (Hawaii & Guam included) and OCONUS. Maybe there is some type of legal liability, or procedures or whatever red tape the government can conjure up from using military surplus (tents, portable housing, generators, etc.) but what the military disposes of is more than enough to solve some of these "natural disaster" relief shortfalls everywhere. I will give you an example. I used to buy artic sleeping bags in bulk lots from the DRMO in North Chicago (Great Lakes) and donate them to the homeless shelters for the winter (under my business name - yes, tax writeoff - but whatever). And they were grateful to receive the items. If you ask me, the government should be doing it as well. Tell Hillary it takes not only a village, but those village idiots in Washington to make things like that happen.........

Anonymous said...

Go ahead and strike. There are 10 potential CW's ready to take any job possible. Strike and get fired. Then get employed when your potential new employer finds out that you would rather strike against him/her instead of working. We could use a fresh batch of CW's here to work, by themselves, no families, no anchor babies, no complaints about making a much better living than in their home countries. Pack your bags and strike. I would be the first to fire my employees as there are many more wanting their jobs. You want to be treated different than any of my local workers, I don't think so.