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Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Marianas Variety Editorial

A Brief History on the Federalization Threats

A DECADE ago during the Teno administration, the following disaster led to the current predicament we all face today. A true sign of failure, ignorance and self-interest hidden political agendas and was the sole basis and reason why the local control of immigration and labor was recently stripped by the U.S. Congress.

The elected leaders, lawmakers and business community who had been involved with today’s disaster are still sitting in office, some seeking re-election. We say STEP DOWN and retire immediately before you bring further destruction to our homeland.

Feb. 22, 1999: Senate President Paul Manglona and Speaker Diego Benavente flew to Washington D.C. to join Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio to thwart off fresh attempts by the Clinton administration, seeking a federal take-over of the CNMI immigration and labor local control.

According to Senate President Manglona back then, the meeting with key congressional members and staffers was an opportunity for island leaders to provide report on the tight financial situation of the government as well as various reforms implemented by the Teno administration in the past year. Our government came under fire anew two months prior over the alleged failure of our local government to curb number of Asian migrant workers on the island (non-resident guest workers); charges repeatedly refuted by CNMI officials with reports of accomplishments of labor and immigration reforms.

A quote to a reporter by Speaker Benavente: “We always felt that we do not have a serious situation here and it’s always easier, I feel, for anyone to understand that when they come here and see for themselves,” (meaning the U.S. Congress).

TAOTAO TANO states the following; does the current predicaments we face today a result of not having a serious problem? Our indigenous local U.S. citizens who were host to thousands of non-resident guest workers had remained unemployed and untrained to take on those positions that required special skills. Why? Our people had been disrespected and insulted by foreign non-resident guest workers demanding citizenship in our homeland, why? Mayhem and uncertainties now taking place. Did our leaders then do anything to prevent such predicaments? Keep reading and you shall find out.

May 3, 1999: After meeting with key members of U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C. the CNMI Legislature hoped to continue reform measures to deal with concerns on local labor and immigration in an attempt to block a federal takeover proposal.

Sept. 15, 1999: Senate President Manglona, and Speaker of Benavente along with Governor Teno Testified on S. 1052 in Washington, opposition the application of federal immigration law to the Northern Marianas. Our leaders warned that such a legislation would have adverse impact on the CNMI economy, further stating that S. 1052 was not the vehicle that would further the interest of the commonwealth. Governor Teno led the CNMI delegation comprised of administration officials, members of the Legislature and representatives from the business sector — the Saipan Chamber of Commerce and HANMI.

TAOTAO TANO states that our leaders are still using the same excuse, the ECONOMY! The real question is did they do anything to correct the labor and immigration problems? Did any of our leaders do anything to better prepare the CNMI with alternate industries in case of a federal takeover?

Keep reading — the truth is getting closer and interesting.

Remember, today the same leaders who were opposed to such federal take-over of our immigration and labor are now in full support, to include the Speaker Benavente, now the chair of the House Foreign and Federal Relations Committee.

Full support, for they failed the CNMI tremendously.

Feb. 8, 2000: Our elected leaders stepped up campaigns opposing automatic federal takeover of our labor and immigration control. U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chaired by then Frank H. Murkowski, R-Alaska, and two other ranking Democrat members, a bipartisan bill that sought automatic implementation of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act in the commonwealth for serious concerns on the alleged failure of our government to curb the INFLUX of migrant workers from Asian countries as well as impact of such policy on employment opportunities for LOCAL U.S. residents. An opportunity which led to prioritizing foreign guest workers in our homeland instead of U.S local residents.

Lobbying then was Speaker Benigno Fitial and the Teno administration in opposition to federal takeover. Also in full support of opposing a takeover was then Senate Floor Leader Pete P. Reyes.

Feb. 9 2000: Passage of takeover bill in U.S. Senate “A Wake Up Call,” says Saipan Chamber of Commerce president Lynn Knight.

Feb. 15, 2000: TAOTAO TANO states, that while an impending federal takeover bill was headed to the U.S. House our elected leaders along with the business community came up with their version of how to fix our labor and immigration.

They repealed Public Law 11-69, the three-year stay limit for all nonresident workers in the CNMI — 30,000 nonresidents back then to be exact, holding more than 90 percent of the jobs in the private sector. Rep. Diego T. Benavente was confident then that the legislative branch would move swiftly to amend Public Law 11-69.

Feb. 2001-April 2001: A campaign both elected leaders and the business community ensued to repeal Public Law 11-69 the three-year stay limit for all guest workers.

Those heavily involved in such a disastrous move were Speaker Fitial, Sens. Pete Reyes, Paul Manglona, Ricardo Atalig, Edward Maratita, David Cing, Rep. Diego Benavente and then-Saipan Chamber of Commerce president Anthony Pellegrino, who now operates the TRADES School educating and training our local U.S. residents.

TAOTAO TANO states could it be that he felt GUILTY for leading our people to their own detriment by aggressively fully supporting repealing Public Law 11-69 to appease 30,000 nonresident workers?

Also supporting the repeal of the stay limit we’re Lynn Knight, Tan Holdings executive representing the CNMI in D.C. as authorized by Governor Fitial and not by the will of the people of the commonwealth, and then HANMI president Ronald Sablan, now in charge of medical referrals.


July 4, 2001: Governor Teno gave a significant pre-Liberation Day present to 30,000 non-resident guest workers plus continued recruitments ultimately flooding our gates with foreign workers in the commonwealth by suspending Public Law 11-69 in its entirety.

TAOTAO TANO states that instead of correcting the alleged INFLUX of nonresident workers in our homeland, a serious concern with U.S. congressional members, the individuals involved had sought making our own U.S. local residents JOBLESS and a MINORITY in their own homeland, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Since then our immigration and labor control has gotten worst. Major problems with human smuggling, human exploitation, labor abuse, sham marriages, illegal document processing and so forth were rampant. But again, TAOTAO TANO still maintains that it is beyond comparison to that of third world tortures and atrocities. Still, this is a huge failure on the part of our leaders for not rectifying a long problematic immigration and labor local control and prioritizing the need for foreign labor.

To all of you my fellow voters, I ask that you seek deep in your heart and think hard this upcoming election and let us not make the same mistakes over and over again. We must change these veteran elected officials who have led us to such uncertainties and mayhem and make that change this coming November once and for all in order to fix what is broken. Vote those that are willing to take on the challenge for Change, for the betterment of our people, our community and our homeland as a whole in the pursuit of a higher standard of living as intended in the spirit of our Covenant with the United States.

Taotao Tano






Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Guam, NMI officials: No to federalization

By Gerardo R. Partido (GUAM Variety News Staff) 101107

HAGÅTÑA — Officials from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands yesterday testified before the Guam Legislature in support of Resolution 80, which urges U.S. lawmakers to turn down the CNMI federalization bills pending in the U.S. Congress.

CNMI Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Villagomez and Senate Vice President Pete P. Reyes, who attended the recently concluded 4th Conference on Business Opportunities in the Islands, took turns supporting Resolution 80 and thanking Guam senators for sponsoring it.

Villagomez said the federalization legislation will destroy the CNMI's already fragile economy."At least three CNMI hotels have already warned me privately that they will close down if federalization is implemented," Villagomez said.He added that the CNMI's minimum wage has already been increased while garment factories have shut down and airlines continue to cut flights to the commonwealth to the detriment of the CNMI's tourism industry."The cost of doing business in the CNMI is increasing. If the U.S. forces federalization upon us, we will lose our competitiveness and our reliance on the U.S. will increase. I'm sure the federal authorities don't want that," Villagomez said.He added that the CNMI federalization bills are legally deficient and have incorrect information."They say we have 40,000 foreign workers but in reality we only have about 20,000. And pretty soon, this may go down to 15,000,
" Villagomez said."With Guam's support, we hope Congress will delay federalization until a proper evaluation can be made," Villagomez said.H.R. 3079, "The Northern Mariana Islands Immigration, Security, and Labor Act," as introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, and S. 1634, "The Northern Mariana Islands Covenant Implementation Act," as introduced in the U.S. Senate, allows persons lawfully admitted to the CNMI, including the spouses and children of such persons, to be granted U.S. non-immigrant status "if such persons have continually resided, except for brief absences, in the commonwealth for at least five years prior to the date of enactment.

"Reyes, R-Saipan, said the federal government should conduct a study first of the impact of these bills on the CNMI and Guam before federalization is even considered."This is not the first time this has happened. Congress seems to be always picking on the CNMI. We have to waste resources just to defend ourselves from these constant attacks," Reyes said.He added that federalization, if implemented, will change the economy and culture of the CNMI."The federalization of our immigration will hurt our self-government. And our Covenant provides the right to self-government," Reyes said.He said local control of immigration is critical as the commonwealth searches for alternative industries now that the garment and tourism industries in the CNMI are in decline."Instead of federalizing our immigration, we propose the creation of an immigration board composed of both federal and local government officials who will constantly review immigration policies," Reyes said.

Guam senators showed solidarity with the CNMI officials, saying that federalization would have a ripple effect here.Sen. Judy Guthertz, D-Mangilao and the principal author of the resolution, said many people from the CNMI may migrate to Guam if federalization takes place and Guam may not be able to absorb them considering the already heavy drain on the island's infrastructure and social services.

Sen. Ben Pangelinan, D-Barrigada, said that if Guam doesn't support the CNMI on the federalization issue, the U.S. could do the same to Guam should the island decide to revive the drive for commonwealth status."The U.S. must honor its covenant with the CNMI," Pangelinan said.

Sen. Jesse Lujan, R-Tamuning, echoed this view, saying that the fundamental issue is that the federal government is reneging on its agreement with the CNMI."They lied to you and now they are taking back what they've given you. And remember, you guys have a covenant with them. We here on Guam do not even have that. So what they could do to you they could more than double the damage to us," Lujan said.

The activist group Nacion Chamoru also testified in favor of the resolution with its "magalahi" Debbie Quinata saying that the U.S. should honor its agreement with the CNMI.

The lone dissenting testimony was provided by Alfredo O. Antolin Jr., a U.S. citizen of Filipino descent, who testified that Resolution No. 80 is "a dream-crushing barrier to opportunity" to those foreign national workers, mostly of Filipino descent, that will benefit from the federalization of the CNMI.""The Guam Legislature should not create a divided island community with the passage of Resolution 80. The people of Guam have always healed hatreds and misunderstanding, with equality and opportunity for all, it is not a community of exclusion," Antolin said.He added that immigrants who have come to Guam have always enriched the tapestry of Guam, making the economy more vibrant, workplaces more productive, and the island community stronger.
"The Guam Legislature should lead all levels of our government in partnership with private industry and the countless ethnic organizations on Guam to create and pursue a comprehensive immigrant integration agenda that will welcome the newest members of our community as full participants in our island community," Antolin said.

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