Commonwealth Utilities Commission and 19 Employees Sue USCIS

January 4, 2016


The Commonwealth Utilities Commission and 19 nonresident workers have sued Jeh Charles Johnson Secretary of Homeland Security, Sarah Saldana, Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Leon Rodriquez, Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The ten-page complaint states that 33 essential CUC employees are skilled nonresident workers with CW-1 permits. Nineteen of those employees had permits that expired on December 31, 2015. CUC filed renewal applications for all of them in a timely manner. However, USCIS failed to act on the applications. By law the nonresident workers cannot continue to work after the expiration of their CW permits.

The defendants call for the USCIS to enforce  the U.S. Administrative Procedures Act and compel the agency to act on the workers' CW petitions.

CUC attorney James Sirok is also asking the District Court to grant a declaratory ruling that would allow the defendants to work while a decision is being made on their applications for CW permit renewal.

The lawsuit also asks the court to "grant such other and further relief as this Court deems equitable, just, and proper."

USCIS should be held accountable. The federal agency should have to pay any wages that the employees lost due to the federal agency's failure to process the CW renewals.  Businesses, employees and their families should not have to suffer because USCIS employees did not act on petitions that were filed within the specified time period.

The complaint also clarifies the importance of maintaining CUC's skilled workforce:
In order for the Utility to operate and provide utility services to the CNMI and its populace, it hires employees to perform various essential functions and duties which in turn results in the generation and distribution of power and water throughout the islands of Saipan Tinian and Rota and the movement and elimination of wastewater  and sewer elements on these islands.
No business should have to cease operating because a regulating agency is slow to act. When a shut down impacts a territory's entire population, it is especially inexcusable. All nonresident employees extending their CW permits should be able to work until a decision to deny or approve the renewal is made.

Governor Ralph Torres has also informed President Obama of the economic damage caused by the delay in processing the CNMI's CW permits.

The USCIS has been not given the proper attention to the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker Program. Instead of sending CW renewal applications to California to be processed as has been the practice, they should be processed in the CNMI so employers and employees can better monitor the status of their permits. A fully staffed USCIS Office should be set up immediately to address the critical needs of both nonresident workers and their employers and to prevent further economic loss to all parties.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

As usual, your article is slanted and doesn't wait for the facts.
You stated; "Nineteen of those employees had permits that expired on December 31, 2015. CUC filed renewal applications for all of them in a timely manner".

It came out today that the CUC filed the renewals on December 28th. I would like to ask you how that can be construed as timely?

As far as the CW's being highly skilled, that should be subjected to further scrutiny. Most power plants hire ex-Navy personnel in the mainland, or graduates of an approved apprenticeship, or those with some type of formal training to begin with. The problem with CW's is that being from the P.I., they can get away with almost any "claim" of schooling or credentials knowing it can't be verified. Once employed on Saipan, they are protected by their fellow CW's and other CW's cover for them while they try to "learn the ropes". If a local is brought in for an OJT (on the job training) position, the CW's resent that individual, refuse to pass along any knowledge, and generally look at "locals" as threats to their jobs.

The CW program should be eliminated, and hopefully it will. You don't see this type of nonsense on Guam (they tend to utilize the H-Visa). Guam has a better economy, better workforce, better opportunities. Why? Because this type of CNMI nonsense doesn't exist on Guam and the DOL enforces hiring of qualified U.S. citizens first!
Supporting the CW cause in Saipan just drags out an already bad situation longer. The sooner they change the rules on this "slave island", the better things will become for everyone.

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous

I took the information from the complaint and news articles. If it was 'slanted' so was the complaint and news articles! I do not support the CW program. It is not administered effectively and provides no pathway to citizenship for legal, longterm nonresident workers. There are many problems and the long distance administration of it is a major one.

I personally know one of the employees. He is a college-educated engineer and is highly skilled. The others were said to also be trained and skilled. How many do you know or is your opinion slanted?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, you just talk blah blah thingy! I challenge you to do any dirty or any professional jobs that CW1 do! Come on! Admit it! You and your island are nothing without these people! Grow up ne!

Anonymous said...

To anonymous that wrote all I say is blah blah thingy; What the CNMI needs is a local workforce where the money that is earned STAYS in the local economy to help it grow. Contract workers from the Philippines can easily be replaced by the exodus currently taking place of workers leaving Puerto Rico and heading to the U.S. mainland. FSM citizens are another option. All that's needed is a small increase in the living wage and a reduction in the cost of living on Saipan (blamed in part on it's inability to grow a healthy economy - whch can be partly attributed to the constant outflow of the workers earnings being sent off island). The CNMI will never change its behaviour on its own, I believe thats why the Federal Government is doing what it is doing. The "slave island" model doesn't work. Better wake up, 2019 is approaching.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah? Let's see! That's why! even petty matters in building a storey, you are just relying to CW's ne! And i don't want to elaborate all our contributions since, you already know! I mean, you are a good researcher. To add your researches, most U.S Citizen workers nowadays are half cast, were most of the parents are contract workers 20 to up years ago who patiently serve the island.

Anonymous said...

This article link below solidifies my previous postings/ argument:
http://www.mindanews.com/mindaviews/2014/12/03/turning-point-the-new-filipino-heroes/

Overseas filipino workers are considered heroes back in the P.I. because of the money they send back. Well, I say - "just how many years has this been taking place"? (more than thirty years that I personally know of). And that's my point, the Philippines have become "addicted" to that money. What has the Philippines done to try and create a better economy on it's own soil so that it's "heroes" can stay home and have a better quality of life?
If you don't believe me, just read the last paragraph in the article, especially this statement:
"The government ought to pursue genuine and meaningful development which will make migration just an option not a compelling choice".


Anonymous said...

Anon-Jan 10-4:13
JFYI, the phil. (Among some other countries survive on the OFW's (Overseas foreign workforce) There are millions of these Filipino workers eorldwide and they send home Billions of dollars (US) each year.
Without these workers the Phil. Govt would not be as "robust" as it is.But the people on the whole are still very poor.

The whole thing in the Phil. is to make many children and hope that they can get educated to go work overseas and send money home to their families which in-turn goes back into the economy.
Many outside countries such as China , Japan, and many European countries such as Briton, Germany and Italy have large manufacturing complexes in the Phil and many are in the numerous free trade zones.

The Phil also suffers from a "brain drain" due to the many educated ones leaving to work outside the country. Some of skills are taken over by the many that eventually return either by retirement or just come back to be with their family after so many years.

The Phil. Govt has provided low interest loan and other programs for these returning and also educated "experienced" people to start their own business.
There is also many local programs for training.So,many go to college paid for by one member of the family that is an OFW.

There are few decent paying jobs in the Phil. for these educated people and also most places overseas require at least two years of employment in a certain area before they will hire these people as an OFW. This is from the past in the CNMI, no skill no contract, even for a domestic worker.
Most big business in the Phil. require a college degree, single and under 25 to even become a sales clerk.
There are many with nursing degrees etc that work as such.\
There are also many college educated that work as domestic workers outside the country.

In short it is no secrete that the Phil is a labor exporter to other nations around the world as the Filipino on the whole have a good command of the English language and that among the education is the reason they are most sought after world wide.

Another thing most of all of the maritime vessels world wide and even the US, employ much of their engineers and crew from the Phil.
I have for many years employed or worked world wide alongside of many nationalities including Filipino.

Years ago the plantation in Hawaii (before statehood) also imported them to work in the plantations also Chinese and Okinawans as the local people there were on about the same level in regards to work as in the NMI.. The imported workers in Hawaii had a path to equal residency prior to and after statehood became US citizens.
The Feds atopped the import of these CW upon statehood.

I have also employed the Filipino in the Phil. and this leaves a lot to be desired.
Few have any real skills and even fewer have any common sense. You have to stand and watch every move and also there is absolutely very few with any loyalty the will only stay to take what they can and "sell you out" at the first chance and/or steal you blind as the good one have already left.

Wendy Doromal said...

Here is an article I wrote for World Bank on the Dark Side of Remittances:
http://unheardnomore.blogspot.com/2010/03/dark-side-of-remittances.html
and the relationship to exporting people. . .