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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






Sunday, November 11, 2007

Labor reform bill now law

Local ST-Saturday, November 10, 2007
By Agnes E. DonatoReporter

The comprehensive labor reform bill became law yesterday, replacing legislation that had governed nonresident hiring for the past 24 years.Gov. Benigno R. Fitial signed the controversial bill after meeting with representatives of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce and Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands, which had previously opposed the proposal.Of particular concern to the private sector have been provisions that require foreign workers to exit the CNMI periodically, maintain the Moratorium Law, raise the minimum percentage of local workers in private firms, and eliminate job transfers.“I am pleased to say that the private sector has agreed to work with us on the new law as passed by the Legislature and is willing to work on as smooth a transition as possible,” Fitial said. “I am ready to work with businesses in trying to make it easy for them to comply with the new labor law.”HANMI chairwoman Lynn A. Knight noted that the meeting was positive, although the business community had wanted more changes-which it did not ultimately get.“Both HANMI and the Chamber representatives acknowledged that we had wanted more time to make additional changes to the bill. But since it did pass, we felt that it was time to move on as best we can. Our economy is very fragile, and this is all the more reason that we must build bridges between the private sector and the government,” said Knight. “We requested an opportunity to work on the regulations as they are introduced in the coming weeks and offered some suggestions for how to tackle this in a practical manner as we go forward,” she added.The Commonwealth Employment Act of 2007 will take effect on Jan. 1, 2008. In the meantime, the administration will be working on rules and regulations to implement the new law. Fitial expects the regulations to be ready for promulgation in one week. The public will be given 30 days to comment on the regulations prior to adoption.Driving forceIn signing the 64-page bill, the governor gave credit to three women who served as a driving force behind the legislation: Rep. Jacinta Kaipat, Sen. Maria Pangelinan, and the governor's legal counsel, Deanne Siemer.Kaipat, who sponsored the bill in the House of Representatives, said the bill's enactment was “historic,” given that the previous alien labor law had been around since 1983.She also noted the long road toward the bill's enactment. The original bill was introduced by Rep. Ray N. Yumul in the 14th Legislature over two years ago.“This bill will fix the broken part of the system. That's all we want to do,” she said.Pangelinan acknowledged the bill's polarizing effect on the community, and expressed hope that the benefits of the measure would reveal themselves in time.“Despite all of the controversy, I believe history will be the arbiter of this. I look to the future with confidence and hope,” she said.Siemer said she was just proud to be associated with Kaipat and Pangelinan.ProvisionsOne of the major provisions of the new labor law increases workforce participation by U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Within five years, the number of locals in each company must be at least 30 percent of all employees. The previous minimum was 20 percent.The new law prohibits foreign national workers from transferring jobs at any time before or after contract expiration. The only time an alien worker may transfer is when a Labor hearing officer allows it by administrative order. This means that, in order to move to a new employer, an alien worker must first file a complaint and prove to the Department of Labor that her rights have been violated by the former employer.Furthermore, the new law provides an exit requirement. Nonresidents must leave the CNMI for six months during every three-and-a-half year period.The exit requirement may be spread across the three years after Jan. 1, 2008 at the convenience of employers and employees.Fitial said the exit requirement is designed “to prevent the aliens from making the CNMI their home and making them eligible for permanent resident status [under future federal immigration law].”

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