Friday, February 29, 2008

Presentation at the 15th General Association of Mariana Islands Mayors and Council Members

Alfred Pangelinan, Director of CNMI Labor's Employment Services Division; Bert Johnston, Education Director of Trades Academy of Guam; Cinta M. Kaipat, Deputy Secretary of CNMI Department of Labor; Eric Plinske, Director of NMC's Small Business Development and SWAT Coordinator; Edith Guerrero, Executive Director for the CNMI Workforce Investment Agency (WIA); and Alice Concepcion, CNMI Labor Employment Services Supervisor.
SWAT Team at 15th General Assembly of the Association of Mariana Islands Mayors
Deputy Labor Secretary Cinta Kaipat speaks to Assembly on PL 15-108 and SWAT
Deputy Secretary of Labor Kaipat fields questions from the mayors and council members
SWAT Coordinator Eric Plinske (NMC) gives an overview of SWAT's mission
List of SWAT Partners

Friday February 29, 2008

NMI mayors no show at general assembly

By Emmanuel T. Erediano Variety News Staff

THE 15th general assembly of Association of Mariana Islands Mayors, Vice Mayors and Municipal Council Members is hosted by the CNMI but none of its mayors showed up for the meeting that started yesterday at the Saipan Grand Hotel in Susupe.

Sixteen municipal officials traveled all the way from Guam to attend the assembly where they discussed the economic impact to the region of the pending military build-up.

The group will elect a new set of officers today.

Tinian Mayor Jose San Nicolas confirmed attendance days ago, but due to “unforeseen circumstances,” he said his presence will not be possible.

San Nicolas said he is sending Tinian Municipal Council Chairman Antonio H. Tudela to attend on his behalf.

He said in a letter addressed to the association that “I strongly value our association and believe that the end results of our objectives will be realized if we work together.”

San Nicolas said he has to hold a very important meeting with the department heads on Tinian.
Rota Mayor Joseph S. Inos also sent a letter to group saying his tight schedule does not allow him to leave Rota. He instead sent Alfred M. Apatang Jr. as his proxy.

Northern Islands Mayor Valentin I. Taisakan, according to the assembly secretariat, did not confirm his attendance prior to the assembly.

Saipan Mayor Juan B.Tudela, the secretariat said, has resigned from the association years ago.

Those who attended from the CNMI are the members of the Saipan and Northern Islands Municipal Council, which is composed of Chairwoman Antonia M. Tudela, Vice Chairman Ray Blas Camacho and member Felipe Q. Atalig; the Rota Municipal Council’s Roy James A. Masga, Alfred M. Apatang Jr., and Vicente M.Calvo; and the Tinian council’s Antonio Borja, Charlene M. Lizama and Eugenio L. Villagomez.

Department of Labor Deputy Secretary Cinta Kaipat, Division of Employment and Training Services Director Alfred Pangelinan, Labor supervisor Alice Concepcion, Northern Marianas College’s Eric Plinske and Workforce Investment Agency’s Edith Deleon Guerrero were invited to make a presentation on CNMI labor issues. They all showed up.

Guam Mayors Council executive director John F. Blas declined to comment on the CNMI mayors’ absence.

All he could say is that the meeting is important as it focuses on the pending military build-up.
“The economic opportunity brought about by the military build up on Guam will, at some point, impact the CNMI,” Blas said.

He added that yesterday’s meeting also focused on CNMI’s labor situation and the Guam Contractors Association need for skilled workers.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Mark Your Calendars! Go See Brad and Jeff in Play Buffet

Hey, Everyone:

Be sure to check out Jeff, Brad, and gang which opens March 7!

Two weeks from Friday, March 7, is the opening of the Play Buffet in the American Memorial Theater in the Park. Nahal Navidar, an amazing actress, is in it. Brad Ruszala has a part, I have a piece, as do a bunch of other cool people. To help promote live theater on the islands, I'd appreciate it if my fellow bloggers would post this image on their blogs until we conclude the run in three weeks.


Check out my Saipan Blog at

Sunday, February 10, 2008



If you would like to know more about PL 15-108 and what's happening at the Department of Labor, I invite you to visit the CNMI Labor Forum at

Saturday, February 9, 2008

President Bush Proposed A U.S. Guest Worker Program In 2004

Letters to the Editor
Saturday, February 09, 2008

Philosophy behind guest worker program

Lots of debates regarding the pro- and anti-federalization plus Public Law 15-108 (which is now in effect), forums, informal meetings and toolbox talks are very much alive in the Commonwealth among locals and foreigners alike at this very moment. Aside from attending forums, meetings and to find a more viable input, I found a very significant article coming from an independent organization that I hope will support the effort of many foreign workers here in the island seeking for improvement in their working status.

This article, titled "Guest Worker Program," was published in the US Immigration website ( I am providing you with a copy of the said article so that both locals and foreigners will understand that no less than President Bush himself wants to improved the status of foreign workers because of their great contributions to the US economy.

Guest Worker Program

In 2004 President Bush proposed a guest worker program as a way of giving back to illegal immigrants. He discussed the important role that immigrants have played in the United States by shaping America into what it is today. The United States has had a tradition of welcoming foreigners into the country who have tended to assimilate well into American culture. Bush mentioned that the growth of immigrants over time has propelled the economy into the world's largest and has allowed it to become a powerhouse. Their contributions continue to be evident as they take on difficult jobs that many times require long hours. Immigrants are also known for starting their own businesses which help contribute to the U.S. economy. President Bush drew upon his personal experiences as a Texan to point out how Mexican immigrants he knew had made a difference in the country. He also added that they bring certain values with them like family, work ethic and independence. One specific example that he brought up was the thousands of immigrants that currently serve in the military. They may be foreign born but this did not deter them from embracing the service opportunities that this country has to offer.

Bush emphasized the qualities that immigrants brought to the country and how the United States was dependent upon them. Therefore, he suggested that changes in the current immigration system needed to be introduced. Some employers take advantage of the current situation of illegal immigrants by paying them less than minimum wage. Many hard-working illegal immigrants find themselves fearing deportation due to nationwide raids where documents are verified. Another possibility is that someone will report them to authority figures which can lead to deportation as well. Bush mentioned that having to spend their efforts on patrolling the borders so as to prevent immigrants from entering the country illegally hampers the efforts of securing the country overall. Thus, President Bush has proposed that a better immigration system be introduced so that more immigrants are able to achieve the American Dream.

Many immigrants come with the intention of improving their lives which is something that is shared by humanity in general. President Bush mentioned how they end up taking the jobs that many Americans will not even consider. Illegal immigrants make many sacrifices to reach the United States and often take abuse. Other times they are exploited but this goes unreported due to fear that they may end up being deported. Bush claimed that the current immigration system was not fair and that laws needed to become more humane. Under Bush's proposed temporary worker program, foreign workers would be given the opportunity to fill a job that Americans are not willing to take. Beforehand, the company must make reasonable efforts to find an American that will take the job. In the case that they cannot find a willing American, then they can resort to hiring an immigrant who has a valid permit. Permits will be given for a three year period and would be renewable upon meeting certain requirements. Those violating any requirements or laws will have their permit revoked and deported to their homeland. Employers will be required to hire only those with a valid permit. In addition, employers must report the information to the government so that they can keep track of those in the system. The government will also enforce harsh penalties for employers who violate any work laws under the guest worker program.

Those who participate in the program will be required to register and possibly pay a fee. This would depend on whether they were currently residing in the country or if they are currently abroad. To identify individuals in the program they will be given a temporary worker card. Bush would also work closely with the foreign governments to make sure that after the permit has expired they will have incentives to return to their country. In addition, he would also find a way to have the credit of a temporary worker applied to the retirement system in the foreign country. The temporary workers would also be able to contribute part of their earnings to some type of retirement savings plan. While the program proposed in 2004 was not approved, the guest worker program still is being promoted by President Bush. He mentioned the need for such program in a two day summit in Cancun, Mexico in March 2006. Currently, the guest worker program is part of a Senate bill on immigration reform that could grant amnesty to 12 million immigrants in the United States.

Disclaimer: This article was published by an independent organization. It should be used for information purposes only. Access it at

Carlito Jimenez Marquez
Puerto Rico, Saipan

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Howard Willens On H.R. 3079

Tuesday February 5, 2008


The plain meaning of H.R. 3079

By Howard Willens
For Variety

FOR more than a decade commonwealth residents have debated the pros and cons of federalization of the CNMI immigration and labor laws. Today this debate is focused on the provisions of H.R. 3079, currently before the U.S. Senate for final approval. Although the debate on the merits of the bill undoubtedly will continue, it is desirable to strive for a common understanding of what the bill means.

The issue

Recent media reports originating from an unnamed source at the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, plus numerous letters in support of H.R. 3079, have proposed an interpretation of the legislation’s transition program which I find to be clearly wrong. The question at issue may be simply stated: Does the transition period under H.R 3079 involve one or two special programs for guest workers in the CNMI?

In support of the two guest worker programs theory

The anonymous committee staffer (quoted in the Marianas Variety of January 30, 2008) and the letter writers contend that there are two separate guest worker programs provided by H.R. 3079 under which employers may hire nonimmigrant foreign workers during the transition period.

First, they state that “current guest workers would be eligible for the new CNMI-only temporary guest worker program.” They go on to say that this will give these workers “the chance to remain in the CNMI as long as that program is operating and it will certainly last at least six years beyond the date” of the bill’s enactment and “probably longer, given the CNMI’s very large dependence on guest workers.” (This description is misleading. It fails to acknowledge that during this transition period federal officials are required to reduce annually the number of workers covered by the permit system in order to achieve eventually the goal of zero. It offers small comfort to the 19,000 guest workers in the CNMI to know that a few of them will have the “chance” to be the last to be repatriated.)

Second, they state that “guest workers would be eligible for the non-immigrant worker program under existing federal law on H visas, and allows the CNMI to participate in it without numerical caps.” Conceding that the goal of the legislation is to eventually reduce the number of the guest workers under the CNMI-only temporary guest worker to zero, the proponents of the two-programs interpretation state that “guest workers would continue [to] be able to enter the CNMI indefinitely under the existing federal non-immigrant worker program or [sic] H visas.”

In support of only a single guest worker program

I find that there is a single transition program defined by H.R. 3079, which imposes a permit system on all employers seeking to use nonimmigrant foreign workers, whether that worker is presently in the CNMI or comes in on an H visa. Furthermore, the law requires reductions in the number of permits on an annual basis to zero by the end of 2013, subject to the granting of an extension. After the transition period ends, nonimmigrant workers could enter the CNMI only with an H visa and the commonwealth would be subject to the national caps (unlike Guam). Because it would have to compete with all other U.S. jurisdictions for H visas under the national caps (after the transition program ends), the commonwealth would get few, if any, of these visas.

I find that the two-program theory is unsupportable for these reasons.

First, there is nothing in either the language of H.R. 3079 or its legislative history that refers to two separate guest worker programs during the transition period. All preceding versions of this bill have defined only a single such program to help bridge the gap between the CNMI’s current situation and the full application of the federal immigration laws. This is true of the original versions of H.R. 3079 and S. 1634 as introduced in Congress in 2007, as well as S.1052 passed by the Senate in 2000 and S. 507, approved by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in 2001. Each of these bills defined a single special transition program lasting 10 years (or possibly longer) during which the number of nonimmigrant guest workers in the commonwealth would be reduced to zero.

Second, the proponents of two programs infer the existence of the second guest worker program from the exemption from the numerical caps for H visas that H.R. 3079 provides to the CNMI during the transition program. Such an inference is not supportable and the subsection authorizing the exemption does not permit federal officials implementing H.R. 3079 to admit nonimmigrant workers under an H visa who are not covered by the permit system established by the CNMI-only transition program.

1) The language of the exemption provision, subsection 6(b) of H.R. 3079, imposes no duties whatsoever on federal officials implementing the legislation. It provides only that “An alien, if otherwise qualified, may seek admission to Guam or to the commonwealth during the transition program as a nonimmigrant worker” under the H visa programs “without counting against the numerical limitations” contained in the Immigration and Nationality Act.

2) The exemption from the national caps was necessary to permit the federal officials to issue one or more H visas to meet particular employment requests in the commonwealth without the need to take such visas away from other jurisdictions in the United States. Such exemptions were contained in all previous bills addressing the CNMI situation, with no reference whatsoever in any of these bills to a “second” guest worker program.

3) In earlier versions of the law, the subsection dealing with the exemption from the caps on H visas was contained within the description of the CNMI-only guest worker program. It was almost certainly moved out from this description once it was decided to extend the exemption to Guam as well as the CNMI. It would have been inappropriate, and perhaps misleading, to have this provision relating to Guam contained in the subsection dealing with the CNMI-only guest worker program.

4) The subsections dealing with the CNMI-only guest worker program (with its permit system and objective of annual reductions) indicate that their provisions apply to workers entering the CNMI on H visas, as well as those workers currently in the CNMI who would be entitled to a nonimmigrant classification.

— Subsection 6(d) begins with this statement: “An alien who is seeking to enter the commonwealth as a nonimmigrant worker may be admitted to perform work during the transition period subject to the following requirements [of the permit system]”

— Subsection 6(d)(2) states: “No alien shall be granted nonimmigrant classification or a visa under this subsection unless the permit requirements established under this paragraph have been met.”

— Subsection 6(d)(3) provides that the Secretaries of Homeland Security and State shall establish the conditions for admitting such nonimmigrant workers during the transition period and states: “An alien admitted to the commonwealth on the basis of such a visa shall be permitted to engage in employment only as authorized pursuant to the transition program.”

Third, if the drafters of H.R. 3079 as approved by the House of Representatives had intended to exempt the workers coming in under the H visa program from the CNMI-only transition program, they knew how to do so. In the version of H.R. 3079 that was the subject of hearings in August 2007, there was a provision for the use of employment-based immigrant visas, if necessary, to supplement the available CNMI workforce. Before such visas could be used, the Secretary of Labor under Subsection 6(c)(3) of the bill had to conclude “that exceptional circumstances exist with respect to the inability of employers in the commonwealth to obtain sufficient work-authorized labor, in addition to the commonwealth-only transitional workers authorized under section 103(d)….” (emphasis supplied) As the United States Supreme Court has observed, “where Congress includes particular language in one section of a statute but omits it in another…, it is generally presumed that Congress acts intentionally and purposely in the disparate inclusion or exclusion.” Keene Corp. v. United States, 508 U.S. 200, 208 (1993) (quoting Russello v. United States, 464 U.S.16, 23 (1983)).

Fourth, the contention that the bill provides for two, very different, guest worker programs during the transition period simply makes no sense. In the first place, why would any guest worker choose to participate in the so-called temporary program, with the chance of having the available permits being reduced to zero, if such an easy and non-threatening alternative were available under this hypothetical H visa program. Secondly, the argument assumes that the very same federal officials required to apply the harsh provisions of the CNMI-only guest worker program would conclude that Congress intended them to admit all H visa applicants seeking to work in the CNMI without regard to the permit system imposed by the CNMI-only program. This proposition cannot withstand rational analysis.

The fact is, H.R. 3079 mandates the reduction of guest workers in the commonwealth to zero within five years, or perhaps longer if an extension is granted. There are no exceptions, and there is no alternative for guest workers or CNMI employers, who will have to compete for the permits remaining after the required annual reductions. Those who drafted the bill intended this result. There is absolutely no legislative history indicating anything to the contrary. The congressional drafters of this bill (and the Senate bill) and their collaborators at the Department of the Interior declined to provide to the commonwealth any draft of the proposed bill that they ultimately sent to the House of Representatives for passage. If we had been given this opportunity, we could easily have pointed out these and other deficiencies in the proposed legislation and the inevitable and serious adverse effects on the commonwealth and its guest workers that will result from its enactment.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Meeting With Filipino Community

[This reporter reported this story accurately. Thank you, Haidee.]

Home > Pinoy Abroad > Top Stories
CNMI officials to Filipinos: Give new labor law a chance
01/30/2008 | 02:09 PM

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SUSUPE, Saipan – Key officials of the US Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) government told about a hundred representatives of various Filipino groups on Saipan to give the new labor reform law a chance.

In a three-hour open forum on Tuesday night exclusively covered by GMANews.TV, the CNMI officials said Public Law 15-108 or the Commonwealth Employment Act of 2007 still allows foreign workers to transfer jobs through administrative orders and not necessarily through the filing of a labor complaint against their current employers.

The officials said the new law allows foreign workers to have part-time jobs of up to 32 hours a month, and provides more protection to guest workers than the current system.

The labor reform law takes effect on Feb. 1.

Thousands of Filipinos and other foreign workers joined a unity march in December 2007 to protest the new law, citing its anti-worker and anti-business provisions that restrict consensual and contract expiration transfers and require guest workers to periodically exit the CNMI from 60 days to six months.

But on Tuesday night, the CNMI officials led by Governor Benigno R. Fitial's special legal adviser Howard Willens and his wife and volunteer attorney Deanna C. Siemer, along with Labor Director Barry Hirshbein and former Rep. Cinta M. Kaipat who introduced the bill in the previous legislature that became Public Law 15-108, said workers may have only been misinformed about the advantages of the new law.

"Even the United States has a touchback provision which requires foreign workers to exit (for one year)," said Siemer, adding that the new CNMI labor law only requires a periodic exit of 60 days to six months.

The CNMI Department of Labor also grants exemptions from the periodic exit requirement.

"Public Law 15-108 is better than any law you can find in the world, including the United States…This is the best system there is," Siemer told the Filipino workers, adding that guest workers should "give the new law a chance."

Workers interviewed by GMANews.TV said what they heard during the open forum was the direct opposite of what they knew about the law.

Opponents and critics of the new labor law say the measure will further disenfranchise guest workers in the CNMI now numbering only 19,856 from 20,883 on Sept. 30, 2007 and from 35,000 just a few years back due to a declining economy.

"Tingnan natin kung sino ang nagsasabi ng totoo pagdating ng Feb. 1," one worker said after the open forum.

The CNMI officials also said that contrary to many guest workers' belief, the immigration federalization bill now pending in the U.S. Senate will phase out the guest worker program.

The federalization bill's provision granting non-immigrant status to thousands of eligible long-term foreign workers in the CNMI was removed before it cleared the U.S. House of Representatives, to the disappointment of over 8,000 long-staying Filipino workers in the CNMI and thousands more of foreign workers.

A non-immigrant status allows eligible foreign workers to freely travel, work and study in the United States and its territories.

Jerry Custodio, president of the Human Dignity Movement, said the open forum did not convince him that the new law is as good as the officials want Filipino workers to believe.

Last year, Gov. Benigno R. Fitial himself was quoted by local media as saying that the exit requirement under the new labor law is to prevent foreign workers from gaining permanent residency status should a bill offering such status is introduced in the US.

On Jan. 31, representatives of the Filipino community will meet with US Federal Labor Ombudsman Jim Benedetto in another open forum. Benedetto is one of the most vocal critics of the new labor law, saying it diminishes the right of foreign workers.

The workers said they are also eager to personally hear the concerns of the critics of the bill.

Towards the end of open forum at around 9 p.m. on Tuesday, another worker addressed a question to Philippine Consul General to the CNMI Wilfredo DL. Maximo. She asked permission to speak in Filipino to which the consul general agreed.

The worker asked why the Philippine Consulate General has never issued a statement to defend Filipino workers in the CNMI who were called "animals" and other derogatory terms by certain members of the local community.

Maximo said the Philippine government "does not intend to add more fuel to the fire," as he cited an anonymous called who called Filipinos "animals."

"Hindi tayo magpapadala sa ganyang mga incendiary comments… Kapag sumagot kami, parang sinabuyan naming ng gasolina (ang apoy). Hindi naming hahayaan na magkaroon ng racial tension dito," Maximo said.

He called on his fellow Filipinos to maintain friendly relations with all the members of the CNMI community. - Haidee V. Eugenio, GMANews.TV