Letters to the Editor
Thursday, February 14, 2008
US federalization: A direct impediment to the human right to self-determination
I love our national anthem of the CNMI. Until last year, I learned this song from some of my Chamoru and Carolinian sisters and brothers from the CNMI who live here in the continental United States. I am arduously trying to learn this song in Carolinian and look forward to the day when I can sing this song without the help of pen and paper. Permit me to rekindle a sense of pride in our homeland of the Marianas, the islands of my origins, by sharing with you the words that mean so much to us who have called these islands homeland for more than 5,000 years.
Gi talo gi halom tåsi Na gaige tano-ho, Ayo nai siempre hu saga Malago’ ho
Ya un dia bai hu hanåo, Bai fåtto ha’ ta’lo, Ti sina håo hu dingo, O tano-ho
Mit beses yan mås, Hu saluda håo, Gatbo na islas Mariånas, Hu tuna håo
Mit beses yan mås, Hu saluda håo, Gatbo na islas Mariånas, Hu tuna håo
Mit beses yan mås, Hu saluda håo, Gatbo na islas Mariånas, Hu tuna håo
My father was born on Saipan. My great grandmothers and grandfathers were at one time well known by Europeans because my family helped bring supplies to many parts of Micronesia and Oceania. My mother was born on Guam. After World War II, we were considered outcasts because my grandfather was a pure Japanese who happened to marry a Chamoru woman before the war ever started. Like many Chamoru families after the war, many moved to Guahan to seek better opportunities. My family was one of them. With this in mind, I am writing on behalf of the many people before me who have tried to seek a better life and who continue to struggle to live freely as peace-loving indigenous people of these islands.
I write briefly about my personal background to give context and authority to my work. For a very long time on our islands, we have remained divided as a Chamoru and Carolinian people over issues of the past. Whether these issues were grudges of war time or political relationship with the United States, we cannot let these memories surpass the good work that is beginning to happen in our homelands and in places where we have migrated. This great divide, like the abyss of the Marianas Trench, has been used by our colonizers to divide us as a people. Likewise, this colonial mentality has brought a racist tendency to all who call the Marianas home. Let us remember that racism is taught and if we do nothing to bring out the truth then we will remain in isolation, never allowing the truth to come forward. As a young Chamoru activist and theologian, it is now time to begin the process of healing so that we can work together as ONE people.
With the recent passage of H.R. 3079 in the House of Representatives, a group of young Chamoru and Carolinian activists (from Guahan and the CNMI) in the continental United States drafted letters to Senate committee members and were e-mailed to everyone who oppose H.R. 3079. For some reason, an editor from the local newspaper has attempted to cast a negative light on these efforts calling it “the administration's attempt to recruit young NMI students.” It is with this kind of viciousness in biased media coverage that we seek to clarify positions that all must be aware of whether you are here in the continental United States or there on Guahan and the NMI. We cannot let these kinds of interpretations and judgments steer us in the wrong direction. I would like to personally challenge those who are in favor of federalization, including Tina Sablan, to study the contents of the bill verbatim to see if the CNMI and her people truly benefit from federalization. If one were to juxtapose the current labor and immigration laws of the CNMI with that of federalization, CNMI labor and immigration laws are stronger in protecting the human rights of its citizens and those who are contracted to come to our islands. The abuses of the past were a direct result of large U.S. owned corporations that used the CNMI for its profit. Today, at a time when the CNMI desperately needs an alternative economy, these corporations could care less because they came, they saw, and they plundered, forever casting a negative light on the CNMI.
We are Famoksaiyan, which translates to either "the place or time of nurturing" or "the time to paddle forward and move ahead." It finds its origins in the word Poksai, which means “to raise up.” We are a grassroots network of activists, scholars, students, community and religious leaders/practitioners and artists who seek to push a progressive political, economic and social agenda for Chamorus and their communities at the local, national and international levels. Much of the work of Famoksaiyan has been to educate and inform the public communities at the local, national and international circles from around the world about the plight of our Oceanic communities in the Pacific. As our world shifts into “protecting the security of homeland,” I ask you simply, “which homeland-the continent or the Marianas?” If federalization were to pass, we will succumb into being slaves of federal grants and monies system, which is already being siphoned from the poor into the military budget. The tragedy here is that not only will our lands be taken away, but also our sons and daughters who are “taught” to join the military. Let me be clear that I have utmost respect for all of the military service men and women, especially Chamorus and Carolinians, who step forward to serve this country to protect our freedoms. However, what we need to pay close attention to are the policies that dictate this mentality and the unfounded reasons for federalization and the military buildup in the Marianas.
As a member of Famoksaiyan and a Chamoru from both Guahan and Saipan, I have faxed letters, made phone calls, e-mailed, and visited the senators in their district offices and have always said “No to federalization.” I have not been recruited or paid for these services as I have always served the people from these islands from the deepest core of my being for it was the people from the Marianas who donated their money for my seminary education. I have never forgotten my place in serving my people.
Some may say that it is not good to mix religion and politics. Believe me, I have had my fair share of the lecturing game. However, as someone who has a degree in theology, let us not forget that it was through politics that we have a Catholic religion in our islands. From the Old Testament to the Gospels of Jesus Christ, we have always been taught the struggle for freedom and liberation. Thus, we must work harder for the sake of protecting the very spirituality that we have come to own. This issue of federalization is not an “us versus them” mentality. It is about all of us working together as one Marianas to say no to federalization and no to the military buildup. These two issues work hand in hand. It is now time to bring an end to these wishes of the federal government who have consistently failed to live up to their promises with regards to the human right to a self-determined government. It is now time to act. Will you join me in a faxing party? Let us not rest until our voices are heard in the Senate.
If you would like to obtain copies of these letters, you may simply access this information online at http://www.geocities.com/minagahet/kontra_finafederal.htm or you may contact me at email@example.com for more information. Please continue to fax these letters to the Senate and spread the word to all you meet. May Guahan and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas continue to work together for the good of all of her people.
Jonathan Blas Diaz
Redwood City, Calif.
TAOTAO TANO HAD SPOKEN
- A direct impediment to the human right to self-determination
- 12808 st - Taotao Tano rebuts Pete A. in interview with KSPN 2 News
- TAOTAO TANO CNMI sents letters to the community
- 011608 st - SEND THEM HOME
- 011608 mv - Guest worker faces deportation
- 011608 mv - TAOTAO TANO SLAMS FEDERAL LABOR OMBUDSMAN
- 121407 mv - Trampled by foreigners
- 121407 mv - The despair of the indigenous people
- 121407 st - Familiarity breeds contempt
- 121407 st - 'Be selective on who to bring in'
- 121407 st - This land belongs to the indigenous
- 121407 st - To the people of Precinct 1
- 121407 mv - Think again
UPDATES by links
- 020808 mv - Fitial ready to testify in DC vs federalization, wage hike
- 020108 mv - US Senate panel OKs federalization bill
- HOUSE APPROVED 3079
- 121407 mv -Fitial says feds applying ‘socialism’ to NMI
- 120707 mv - Bingaman answers Fitial
- 120307 mv - US House may vote on NMI federalization
- 110607 mv - Cohen: Fitial administration ‘misinterpreted’ nonimmigrant provision
- 110207 mv -Guest workers brace for final version of federalization bill
- 110207 mv -Gov’t to recalculate numbers of migrants before year ends
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Letters to the Editor
at 8:27:00 AM Posted by TAOTAO TANO CNMI
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Feb 9, 9:15 PM EST
Citizenship on Hold for Many Immigrants
By SUZANNE GAMBOA
Associated Press Writer
AP Photo/Damiko Morris
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush is asking Congress to spend money to help businesses root out illegal workers but he did not request additional funds to help legal immigrants become American citizens more quickly.
In his budget proposal issued this week, Bush asked for $100 million to expand E-Verify, the system employers use to check whether they are hiring documented workers. He didn't ask Congress to allocate money to chip away at millions of citizenship and other immigration applications that flooded the government last summer, before an increase in the agency's filing fees.
Instead, Citizenship and Immigration Services will rely on $468 million in fees to pay for reducing the backlog by 2010. Those funds are a portion of the total fees that came in with the applications this summer.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the summer's fee increases will give the agency the money it needs to get back on track.
"People always argue well you ought to fund this, you ought to fund that. That's great, but the pie is only as big as it is and no one ever comes up with this slice they want to give back in return for this," Chertoff said.
A total 7.7 million applications for various immigration benefits poured into Citizenship and Immigration Services in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2007. That's 1.4 million more than the previous fiscal year.
"The backlogs are pretty much back where they were when they started and the agency is back to doing what it used to do, which is robbing Peter to pay Paul. Right now they are taking resources from permanent residence to do citizenship," said Crystal Williams, associate director for programs at the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
The immigration agency increased fees in July largely to raise about $1.5 billion to pay for modernizing computer equipment, hiring and training more workers, improving field offices and other spending.
Becoming a citizen now costs $595, up from $330. The price to get a green card is $1,010, up from $395. Applicants for both pay another $80 each for digital fingerprinting, a $10 increase.
Congress gave the immigration agency $100 million a year over five years through 2006 to reduce the immigration backlogs. Agency Director Emilio Gonzalez announced in September 2006 the backlog had fallen to about 139,000 cases. About 1 million applications in the backlog that were incomplete, from people still awaiting visas or whose FBI name check was delayed, were not counted.
The administration deserves credit for securing the $500 million from Congress for the backlog, said Doris Meissner, former Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner under President Clinton.
"They broke through the idea that this should just be purely financed by the applicant fees themselves," said Meissner, a senior fellow with Migration Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. "But it was finite."
Since 1988, the work of Citizenship and Immigration Services and its predecessor, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, has been largely paid for by revenue from application fees. Congress has provided money for specific projects over the years, but generally those have been limited to a few years. Sometimes fee money has been diverted for things like detention centers.
The result has been an agency constantly shifting resources to respond to the latest crisis, critics say.
"Every time the system breaks down, they are incentivizing people to say, 'Screw the system, I'll just overstay my visa.'" said James Jay Carifano, a research fellow with the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.
Immigration officials say they will be able to chip away at the backlogs as 1,500 new workers are hired and trained. Things should be back where they were before the application spike by 2010, the agency's spokeswoman Chris Rhatigan said.
Williams thinks that's an optimistic prediction. The 7.7 million applications the agency received last year amount to about three years of work, she said.
at 7:05:00 AM Posted by TAOTAO TANO CNMI
Tuesday February 12, 2008
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
By Howard P. Willens
Special to the Saipan Tribune
For more than a decade Commonwealth residents have debated the pros and cons of federalization of the CNMI immigration and labor laws. Today this debate is focused on the provisions of H.R. 3079, currently before the U.S. Senate for final approval. Although the debate on the merits of the bill undoubtedly will continue, it is desirable to strive for a common understanding of what the bill means.
Recent media reports originating from an unnamed source at the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, plus numerous letters in support of H.R. 3079, have proposed an interpretation of the legislation's transition program that I find to be clearly wrong. The question at issue may be simply stated: Does the transition period under H.R 3079 involve one or two special programs for guest workers in the CNMI?
In Support of the Two Guest Worker Programs Theory
The anonymous Committee staffer (quoted in the Marianas Variety of Jan. 30, 2008) and the letter writers contend that there are two separate guest worker programs provided by H.R. 3079 under which employers may hire nonimmigrant foreign workers during the transition period.
First, they state that “current guest workers would be eligible for the new CNMI-only temporary guest worker program.” They go on to say that this will give these workers “the chance to remain in the CNMI as long as that program is operating and it will certainly last at least six years beyond the date” of the bill's enactment and “probably longer, given the CNMI's very large dependence on guest workers.” (This description is misleading. It fails to acknowledge that during this transition period federal officials are required to reduce annually the number of workers covered by the permit system in order to achieve eventually the goal of zero. It offers small comfort to the 19,000 guest workers in the CNMI to know that a few of them will have the “chance” to be the last to be repatriated.)
Second, they state that “guest workers would be eligible for the non-immigrant worker program under existing federal law on H visas, and allows the CNMI to participate in it without numerical caps.” Conceding that the goal of the legislation is to eventually reduce the number of the guest workers under the CNMI-only temporary guest worker to zero, the proponents of the two-programs interpretation state that “guest workers would continue [to] be able to enter the CNMI indefinitely under the existing federal non-immigrant worker program or [sic] H visas.”
In Support of Only a Single Guest Worker Program
I find that there is a single transition program defined by H.R. 3079, which imposes a permit system on all employers seeking to use nonimmigrant foreign workers, whether that worker is presently in the CNMI or comes in on an H visa. Furthermore, the law requires reductions in the number of permits on an annual basis to zero by the end of 2013, subject to the granting of an extension. After the transition period ends, nonimmigrant workers could enter the CNMI only with an H visa and the Commonwealth would be subject to the national caps (unlike Guam). Because it would have to compete with all other U.S. jurisdictions for H visas under the national caps (after the transition program ends), the Commonwealth would get few, if any, of these visas.
I find that the two-program theory is unsupportable for these reasons.
First, there is nothing in either the language of H.R. 3079 or its legislative history that refers to two separate guest worker programs during the transition period. All preceding versions of this bill have defined only a single such program to help bridge the gap between the CNMI's current situation and the full application of the federal immigration laws. This is true of the original versions of H.R. 3079 and S. 1634 as introduced in Congress in 2007, as well as S.1052 passes by the Senate in 2000 and S. 507, approved by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in 2001. Each of these bills defined a single special transition program lasting ten years (or possibly longer) during which the number of nonimmigrant guest workers in the Commonwealth would be reduced to zero.
Second, the proponents of two programs infer the existence of the second guest worker program from the exemption from the numerical caps for H visas that H.R. 3079 provides to the CNMI during the transition program. Such an inference is not supportable and the subsection authorizing the exemption does not permit federal officials implementing H.R. 3079 to admit nonimmigrant workers under an H visa who are not covered by the permit system established by the CNMI-only transition program.
1) The language of the exemption provision, subsection 6(b) of H.R. 3079, imposes no duties whatsoever on federal officials implementing the legislation. It provides only that “An alien, if otherwise qualified, may seek admission to Guam or to the Commonwealth during the transition program as a nonimmigrant worker” under the H visa programs “without counting against the numerical limitations” contained in the Immigration and Nationality Act.
2) The exemption from the national caps was necessary to permit the federal officials to issue one or more H visas to meet particular employment requests in the Commonwealth without the need to take such visas away from other jurisdictions in the United States. Such exemptions were contained in all previous bills addressing the CNMI situation, with no reference whatsoever in any of these bills to a “second” guest worker program.
3) In earlier versions of the law, the subsection dealing with the exemption from the caps on H visas was contained within the description of the CNMI-only guest worker program. It was almost certainly moved out from this description once it was decided to extend the exemption to Guam as well as the CNMI. It would have been inappropriate, and perhaps misleading, to have this provision relating to Guam contained in the subsection dealing with the CNMI-only guest worker program.
4) The subsections dealing with the CNMI-only guest worker program (with its permit system and objective of annual reductions) indicate that their provisions apply to workers entering the CNMI on H visas, as well as those workers currently in the CNMI who would be entitled to a nonimmigrant classification.
--Subsection 6(d) begins with this statement: “An alien who is seeking to enter the Commonwealth as a nonimmigrant worker may be admitted to perform work during the transition period subject to the following requirements [of the permit system]”
--Subsection 6(d)(2) states: “No alien shall be granted nonimmigrant classification or a visa under this subsection unless the permit requirements established under this paragraph have been met.”
-- Subsection 6(d)(3) provides that the Secretaries of Homeland Security and State shall establish the conditions for admitting such nonimmigrant workers during the transition period and states: “An alien admitted to the Commonwealth on the basis of such a visa shall be permitted to engage in employment only as authorized pursuant to the transition program.”
Third, if the drafters of H.R. 3079 as approved by the House of Representatives had intended to exempt the workers coming in under the H visa program from the CNMI-only transition program, they knew how to do so. In the version of H.R. 3079 that was the subject of hearings in August 2007, there was a provision for the use of employment-based immigrant visas, if necessary, to supplement the available CNMI workforce. Before such visas could be used, the Secretary of Labor under Subsection 6(c)(3) of the bill had to conclude “that exceptional circumstances exist with respect to the inability of employers in the Commonwealth to obtain sufficient work-authorized labor, in addition to the Commonwealth-only transitional workers authorized under section 103(d)..” (emphasis supplied) As the United States Supreme Court has observed, “where Congress includes particular language in one section of a statute but omits it in another., it is generally presumed that Congress acts intentionally and purposely in the disparate inclusion or exclusion.” Keene Corp. v. United States, 508 U.S. 200, 208 (1993) (quoting Russello v. United States, 464 U.S.16, 23 (1983)).
Fourth, the contention that the bill provides for two, very different, guest worker programs during the transition period simply makes no sense. In the first place, why would any guest worker choose to participate in the so-called temporary program, with the chance of having the available permits being reduced to zero, if such an easy and non-threatening alternative were available under this hypothetical H visa program. Secondly, the argument assumes that the very same federal officials required to apply the harsh provisions of the CNMI-only guest worker program would conclude that Congress intended them to admit all H visa applicants seeking to work in the CNMI without regard to the permit system imposed by the CNMI-only program. This proposition cannot withstand rational analysis. .
The fact is, H.R. 3079 mandates the reduction of guest workers in the Commonwealth to zero within five years, or perhaps longer if an extension is granted. There are no exceptions, and there is no alternative for guest workers or CNMI employers, who will have to compete for the permits remaining after the required annual reductions. Those who drafted the bill intended this result. There is absolutely no legislative history indicating anything to the contrary. The Congressional drafters of this bill (and the Senate bill) and their collaborators at the Department of the Interior declined to provide to the Commonwealth any draft of the proposed bill that they ultimately sent to the House of Representatives for passage. If we had been given this opportunity, we could easily have pointed out these and other deficiencies in the proposed legislation and the inevitable and serious adverse effects on the Commonwealth and its guest workers that will result from its enactment.
(Howard P. Willens is the Special Legal Counsel to Gov. Benigno R. Fitial.)
at 7:02:00 AM Posted by TAOTAO TANO CNMI
Sunday, February 10, 2008
By Gemma Q. Casas Variety News Staff
GOVERNOR Benigno R. Fitial is scheduled to leave for Washington, D.C. on Feb. 19 or 20 to attend various meetings and possibly testify again before the U.S. Senate against the bill that will end his control over local immigration.
Fitial, in an interview, said he will be accompanied by his wife, Josie, and Finance Secretary Eloy Inos.
On Feb. 22, while in the nation’s capital, Fitial will meet the members of the Pacific Basin Development Council.
“This is just a regular meeting about Pacific Basin issues,” he said.
From Feb. 23 to 25, the governor will attend the National Governors Association meeting in Washington, D.C. and the Republican Governors Association.
Fitial is the former chairman of the local GOP. In 2001, he founded the Covenant Party.
The RGA is holding a major fundraising event ahead of the November presidential election and President Bush will be its guest of honor.
The governor said he wants to testify in the U.S. Senate against the federalization bill, which will also create a CNMI nonvoting delegate seat in Congress.
“I’m waiting for my invitation from the U.S. Senate to testify against federalization,” Fitial said. “I haven’t received (an invitation) but I’m expecting it.”
The U.S. Senate is expected to pass the bill which is also supported by the Bush administration.
Fitial maintains that the bill is flawed and will create economic havoc for the islands’ already ailing tourism-based economy.
He said he will emphasize the impact of a reduced work force in the commonwealth should the bill becomes law.
His special legal adviser, Howard P. Willens, has prepared another document in defense of the governor’s position against the federalization measure
Willens has said that the bill “mandates the reduction of guest workers in the commonwealth to zero within five years, or perhaps longer if an extension is granted.”
He added, “There are no exceptions, and there is no alternative for guest workers or CNMI employers, who will have to compete for the permits remaining after the required annual reductions. Those who drafted the bill intended this result. There is absolutely no legislative history indicating anything to the contrary.”
But Bill Wicker, the communications director of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources, told Variety in a letter that Willens’ analysis was “incorrect.”
According to Wicker, “it is important to emphasize that the goal of [the bill] is to extend U.S. immigration laws, but do so in a way that is sensitive to the special conditions in the CNMI. In general, this means that the CNMI can take advantage of all of the provisions in the U.S. immigration laws, [and] of the several CNMI-only provisions included in” the measure.
He added, “It is unfortunate that instead of working with the U.S. government to extend U.S. immigration laws as agreed to over 30 years ago, there are those who misrepresent and misinterpret the U.S. government position in an effort to further delay reforms that are vital to the CNMI’s future.”
at 6:13:00 AM Posted by TAOTAO TANO CNMI
In Fiscal Year 2002, five agencies received VOCA funding for eight programs
and are listed below:
Victim Advocacy Program - operated by Karidat Social Services
Victim Hotline Program - operated by Karidat Social Services
Guma Esperansa Shelter - operated by Karidat Social Services
Victim Help Project - operated by the Department of Public Health (DPH)
Family Protection Project - operated by the Tinian Health Center
Rota Family Violence Task - operated by Rota Department of Public Safety
Family Violence Project - operated by Tinian Department of Public Safety
Multi-Disciplinary Response Team (MDRT) - operated by DPH
at 4:31:00 AM Posted by TAOTAO TANO CNMI