The following letter to the editor from Ron Hodges appears in this Friday, January 18, 2008, edition of the Marianas Variety.
Letter to the editor: Chamberonomics XXX…my comments on P.L. 15-108
P.L. 15-108 is the Northern Marianas Islands equivalent of Adolph Hitler's "final solution." Hitler originally sought to enslave persons of color, predominately Jewish, to provide the Third Reich with a free factory and domestic labor force. When his conquests began to crumble, he ordered implementation of the "final solution," or elimination of undesirables, as though it was his master plan from the beginning.
Big business here wants to save money by not paying back wages or settling labor claims and deport guest workers to P.I. and China without due process. Our business leaders do not want federalization or P.L. 15-108, so we can only assume they want to keep the status quo of servitude. Our guest workers here have not been properly represented. Lawyers refuse to represent them, with few exceptions, due to financial conflicts of interest and the fact our guest workers are poor and unable to pay legal expenses. Our judges and politicians have not represented them properly because guest workers are disenfranchised and do not vote.
How could our community justify enforcing such a program of racism and shame? We must defend U.S. minor citizens from being deported to places where children have half the life expectancy of the U.S . mainland and regularly die from lack of basic medical care. One man has burned himself to death at the Labor Department to heighten awareness of this horrific situation, our community marched against this law in unprecedented numbers, and the two authors of this bill were defeated by primarily indigenous voters, so what else must the people do to stop this law?
"There are unjust laws just as there are unjust men" — MK Gandhi.
The U.S. should improve the status of guest workers here. Some guest workers would vacate the impoverished commonwealth, which would help to alleviate our labor glut and unemployment debacle. This action by the U.S. alone would force big business here to increase their numbers of local employees, which means more jobs for young indigenous residents here. The "chamber" cringes at the thought of bearing this retraining expense, but in my opinion, they can do business here or not. I think hotels here are slave driving organizations that pay third world wages while charging tourists top dollar prices. If that greedy group doesn't want to retrain a young local work force, then good riddance.
When my wife was 12 years old, her brother contracted measles. His conditioned worsened. Lacking adequate medical care, Avilino Villar Jr. died at the tender age of seven years old. Sadly, this was not a newsworthy event in the Philippines, but a daily fact of life. Sending one American citizen child to the third world is depraved indifference to the welfare of a minor. I am asking the U.S. Congress to act and prevent such a disgrace from happening.
Puerto Rico, Saipan
The following is my response to Hodges which I've sent in to both papers to print.
Letter to the Editor: Hodges' Distortions Are Shameful
H.R. 3079, the federalization bill now pending in the U.S. Senate, does indeed deport every single foreign worker from the Commonwealth. That bill is awaiting action by a Senate that doesn't know much about the Commonwealth and, for that reason, may pass the bill. Let's make this clear – EVERY FOREIGN WORKER IN THE COMMONWEALTH WILL BE DEPORTED WITHIN FIVE YEARS OF PASSAGE OF THE FEDERALIZATION BILL. There are no exceptions. It is possible, as Pete A says, that there will be an extension of another five years. But the Marianas will have no say in that. It is the intent of the federalization bill, and those like Mr. Hodges who support it, to deport every single foreign worker, bar none, from the Marianas.
The new Commonwealth labor law, P.L. 15-108, welcomes foreign workers, as the Commonwealth always has, and improves their working conditions and protections to a standard virtually unmatched anywhere else in the world. Tell me – where in the world do foreign workers get guaranteed medical coverage? Nowhere. And where in the world do foreign workers get bonded protection that their wages will be paid? Nowhere. One could go on and on. Mr. Hodges' comparison to Hitler is despicable!
And let's look at the treatment of minors. Mr. Hodges is once again not only wrong, but so terribly wrong that one has to conclude his efforts are deliberate propaganda to slander the U.S. citizens who are of Chamorro and Carolinian heritage. What do you suppose Mr. Hodges is doing in the classroom? Maybe we need parent monitors in his classroom to be sure nothing like this unfounded hateful propaganda is going on there.
Here's the deal. Under H.R. 3079, the federalization law, when all foreign workers are deported, all U.S. citizen children will likely go with them unless they have U.S. citizen or permanent relative residents in the U.S. somewhere. Under U.S. law, when a foreign worker is forced to leave, he or she may petition the U.S. immigration officials for what they call "cancellation of removal" but the foreign worker will have to show "exceptional and extremely unusual hardship" to their U.S. citizen son or daughter. It is very difficult to meet this standard. (See, for example, the decision in In re Ariadna Gonzalez Recinas, et al., Respondent, file A75 696 573 (Los Angeles) decided Sept. 19, 2002, by the Board of Immigration Appeals.) If the foreign worker has any relatives or any resources in their home country, or any capacity to earn a living there however small, the U.S. will not allow them to stay, no matter what hardship may occur to their U.S. citizen children from the move to the home country.
Under PL 15-108, the Commonwealth labor law, foreign workers will be required to leave the Commonwealth only for 60 days, once every three years, if the foreign worker is an employee of a qualifying employer and for six months, once every three years, if the foreign worker is an employee of a non-qualifying employer. If a foreign worker meets this periodic exit requirement (perhaps during the children's summer school vacation), the foreign worker can remain in the Commonwealth for as long as they are employed.
The new labor law is now in effect. I urge Mr. Hodges to take the time to read it, as he has obviously not done. The regulations under the new law will come into effect on February 1, 2008. Similarly, I urge Mr. Hodges to read the regulations as they apply to the periodic exit. Anyone can see that the Commonwealth law is quite generous, especially compared to U.S. law. Nothing in PL 15-108 deprives any foreign worker of any aspect of belonging in the community. That is certainly more than one can say for "federalization" which has, from the beginning, divided the community, pitted foreign workers against U.S. citizens, and generally aroused negative feelings on both sides. Shame on Mr. Hodges and equal shame on federal officials who told foreign workers that "federalization" would benefit them.
Cinta M. Kaipat
Author of PL 15-108