Dover Bitch

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

CNMI Testimony

DB has received the documents Dengre will submit on behalf of the workers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which will be holding a hearing on S.1634 tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Human Rights advocate Wendy Doromal is in CNMI gathering this information because these people would otherwise have no voice in the process, which is just par for the course. Please contact your senators on the committee and urge them to support S.1634, amended to protect the exploited workers.

Here (if this widget works) are the PDFs of the documents that will be presented to the committee:

Here is the full-text of the brief statement by the workers (followed by some excerpts from Doromal's statement:

July 12,2007
Dear Chairman Bingaman:

We are foreign confract workers in the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands(CNMI). We have lived and worked in this community for 5, 10, 15, or 20 or more years. We have served the community as nurses, security guards, technicians, mechanics, accountants, engineers farmers, domestic workers, entertainers, construction workers, fishermen, hotel workers, garment workers, restaurant workers, office staff and other positions. We were invited here to work and have contributed much to the commumty. We are the threads that hold the economic fabric of the CNMI together.

We make up the majority of the population in the CNMI, but we have no vote. We pay taxes and many of us have social security and Medicare taxes taken from our pay, yet most of us will never receive those benefits. We are often victims of criminal acts, but we cannot serve on juries. We are voiceless.

The illegal alien workers in the mainland United States have had their voices raised by the U.S. Senate who created a bill to raise their status. As legal non-resident workers also laboring and living on U.S. soil, don't we deserve to have our voices raised by the United States Senate also? An estimated 3,000 of us are documented as having United States citizen children who have lived in the CNMI all of their lives. Presently, we have no way to be united States citizens ourselves. Once we have completed with our contracts we are forced to return to our home countries. How will we be able to provide our U.S. citizen children with education, healthcare and nutrition?

We do believe CNMI is not only a part of the U.S., but is really U.S. soil. As workers, we have seen that the U.S. Constitution is not followed here in the CNMI. We do not understand this. The U.S. Constitution states that all residents of the United States are treated equally and given freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The CNMI and United States are one country, but has two systems -- one democratic and one that supports indentured servitude and refuses to enforce U.S. law.

We need to have federalization of U.S. immigration laws. For years we have suffered with an insecure status and are in the islands only as indentrued servants. Many of us have been victims of illegal recruitment and labor and human rights abuses. Many of us had labor cases that have never been resolved, backwages never recovered, and criminal attacks never prosecuted. We were told that the United States was a democracy, but we do not live in a democratic society here. We urge you to pass legislation that would federalize immigration and help us to achieve the stability and United States citizenship we deserve.

Here are some bits from Doromal's statement:

Thank you for the opportunity to express my views to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which has jurisdiction over matters affecting territories of the United States. From 1984 to 1995 I lived and worked as a teacher in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). I witnessed appalling labor and human rights abuses of contract workers who came from their homelands to work in the United States. They came from the Philippines, China, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Russia, Pakistan, and other Asian countries. They sold their land, houses, and businesses to pay up to $7,000 in recruitment fees for a chance to live the American dream. But too many of these workers lived a nightmare instead. In 1993, I wrote a report that detailed the labor and human rights abuses in the CNMI and offered solutions. It was submitted to CNMI officials, to selected U.S. members of Congress, congressional committees, and the U.S. Departments of Labor, Justice and State.

My family left the islands in 1995 due to threats and terrible harassment that came about because of our human rights work on behalf of these victims. I testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in May 1995 and submitted an updated report on the status of the guest workers and problems with the CNMI labor and immigration laws.

Before I left the CNMI, I promised the workers that I would continue to appeal to U.S. government leaders to extend United States minimum wage, immigration, labor and customs laws to the CNMI. I am ashamed to tell you that 12 years after I made this promise I continue to plead with US government officials to fulfill this promise and finally put an end to the abuses and systemic corruption, and to give a voice to the foreign contract workers. That is why I am in the CNMI this month to evaluate the current status and conditions of the foreign contract workers.

The United States Congress has known about the seriousness of the labor and immigration problems in the CNMI for two decades. Although there have been attempts over the years to enact effective reform legislation, ultimately the Congress has failed again and again its responsibility to ensure human rights and enforce U.S. law on United States soil. Legislation is long overdue, and S. 1634 offers some solutions to the existing problems. With needed revisions, it could be effective in addressing ongoing problems in the CNMI.


Census figures reveal that the nonresident worker population has grown from 3,709 or 22% of the total population in 1980, to 39,089 or 56% of the total population in 2000. Today there are an estimated 84,000 people in the CNMI and only 20,000, or one-third of the adult population, can vote. The last time guest workers with no voting privileges or political rights outnumbered the citizens on U.S. soil it was called slavery.

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