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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






Thursday, November 8, 2007


Submitted 110807

Greetings, Madam Chairman,
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you and yourcommittee on HB 15-38. Overall, it is one of the best Labor reform legislation everintroduced in years. There are however very minor suggestions that I would like to offer for the Committee's review. But before I begin, Madam Chairwoman, I would like to sharemy thoughts on the issue of foreign labor related to HB 15-38. We have witnessed over and over again how foreign workers used the system to their advantage. It is a common fact that somany foreign workers file frivolous complaints at Labor Departmentjust so that they can stay in the CNMI longer or be transferred toanother employer. There were so many abuses not only from employees,employers but also from government employees mandated to protectand enforce the labor laws. We have also witnessed our health system overburden with foreign workers who need medical attentions but do not have themeans to pay for the services or their employers were unable tohelp them. We have also seen our educational system overloaded becauseforeign workers were allowed to bring in their dependents eventhough they have no means of supporting these dependents. We haveso many illegals now because a lot have been allowed to fall inbetween the cracks of our labor and immigration system and we lacked enforcement capability. We see time and time again how some of these workers end upowning their own business while still under a worker's permit. Wecontinue to talk about human resource development plan and training of resident workers but very little effort has been putinto place so that we can finally mean what we say. There are others who would also argue that requiring foreignworkers to exit the CNMI will post as major economic burden on the employers, all I can say is this, we all have to make certainsacrifices and as a business person, such an expense is part ofdoing business, we must not forget that engaging in business isnot a constitutional right but a privilege. A business person just has to do more earnest planning and managing. This bill will help us strengthen our labor law to theadvantage and protection of the resident workers. Some otherpositive changes in this legislation include: (1) This legislation appears to tighten loopholes that haveexisted for so many years which have benefitted both foreignworkers and as well as employers; (2) It places more responsibility and accountability on the employerS as well as on the workers; (3) It places priorities on the hiring of resident workersover foreign workers and forces employers to come to terms withtheir own hiring practices and to take on the bulk of the responsibility of doing business in the CNMI; (4) It forces everyone, public and private to worktogether to provide a true human resource development plan andtraining of resident workers so that our reliance for outside labor will be progressively minimized; (5) It puts the burden on health on the employer and/or theforeign worker and not the taxpayers or the Government of theCNMI; (6) It provides more rights to workers while forcing both employers and employees to work together to accomplish theircommon goal. Madam Chairwoman, I humbly offer few suggestions for you andyour committee's consideration. They are as follows: 1) The job classification should be expanded to include theHospitality and Tourism industry -- for example -- front desk,Human resources, cooks, middle management positions and internshipprograms; 2) All foreign workers must exit the CNMI after 3 years ofcontinuous employment in the CNMI and re-enter, as proscribed inthis legislation. This will reinforce § 4436. Restrictions andObligations provision of this legislation whereby it states that " No employment contract, registration, certification or permit,or the presence of an alien within the Commonwealth pursuantthereto shall be grounds for naturalization or citizenship, orpermanent residency except as may be otherwise provided by law". The most serious issue facing us right now is the possibility ofthe U.S. granting non immigrant status to illegal and legalforeign workers who have over-stayed in the CNMI. We need to bepro-active not reactive. (3) No foreign worker should be permitted or licensed toengage in any business regardless when the foreign worker came tothe CNMI. Instead the Department of Commerce and EconomicDevelopment should be charged in helping residents get into business. (4) high risk employers should be black listed and notallowed to hire any more foreign workers; (5) Foreign workers who have filed numerous frivolouscomplaints should also be barred from re-entering the CNMI; (5) The Northern Marianas College (NMC) have been known inthe past to have bottom-less pit when it comes to money especiallylabor fee generated. NMC has been known to abuse and misuse thesefunds for travel and other expenses and salaries of instructors and rampant granting of scholarships for all degreed areas. I amnot suggesting that the present NMC administration will cause thesame abuse. I am only suggesting that accountability measuresshould be securely in placed. There has to be more stringent measures to ensure that the funds are actually directed asproscribed in this legislation. Madam Chairman, the last comment I would like to make iswhether this legislation if enacted into law will continue to govern the CNMI regardless of the federal takeover. Thank you for the opportunity to provide my comments to youand your committee.
Gregorio S. Cruz, Jr.-- President -Taotao Tano CNMI Association, Inc./ Social Advocacy Org.

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