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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, February 13, 2008

A direct impediment to the human right to self-determination

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 jonadiaz@gmail.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.

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