Dover Bitch

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

End the abuse NOW

Timing is a funny thing.

I had been thinking for a while about how I might be able to call some attention to the deplorable conditions of women and men in the Marianas Islands. The forced abortions. The forced prostitution. What can only be called a form of slavery and human trafficking, on U.S. soil no less. I haven't been able to completely understand how it has persisted in America. What segment of the population can tolerate forced abortions? For a nation divided into Pro-Life and Pro-Choice, where is there a constituency willing to sit back and allow women on U.S. soil to be coerced into having abortions in illegal clinics?

I'm not sure what forces of the universe allowed it to happen with such fortuitous timing, but Digby asked me to post on her blog while her traffic was as high as ever, as she was accepting an award on behalf of progressive bloggers. I will always be grateful to Digby for allowing me the opportunity to point readers to the fine work of the blogger Dengre, whose work on the subject is unparalleled.

I looked forward, in that post, to an important Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on S. 1634, a bill introduced by Sen. Akaka to federalize the Islands' immigration policies. With enough pressure, the bill will pass -- with amendments -- and it will put us on the path to ending these atrocities, once and for all.

Here's where the timing is not so great. The hearing is this Thursday and the entire blog-o-sphere is buzzing with the looming battle in the Senate over the Iraq War.

I write tonight to plead with any readers to make sure this chance doesn't get away. We have a very narrow window in which we can literally rescue people in our own country from being treated like meat, locked away with no rights and no hope. Convicted for the crime of accepting a legal offer to work in America.

Thanks to Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay and other corrupt and morally bankrupt power-brokers, these victims have had no chance of any help from Washington for a decade. This hearing, this bill, right now is their chance for the kind of human rights we all expect in America. Please help me by telling your senators that this matters to you.

If you are already contacting your senators to encourage them to end the war, you can take the opportunity to ask them to support human rights in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).

Dengre has an eloquent new post with much more information:

Contact your Senator, especially members of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Urge them to support S. 1634 and encourage them to support amendments that would:

  • 1. Create a pathway to Citizenship for Guest Workers who have been on the CNMI for more than five years—and a Green Card for all workers with children who are US Citizens.

  • 2. Outline a clear appeals process for any worker denied Immigration Status and/or other rights by the local CNMI Government through new or existing Federal systems of appeals.

  • 4. Mandate that all CNMI entry visa programs—both work and tourist—are run by the Federal Government. (To allow the local CNMI Government to run a tourist visa program is to allow human trafficking.)

  • 5. Mandate random, spot check interviews of guest workers and tourists as they arrive and leave the CNMI to ensure that they were (and are not) victims of abuse.

    There are other changes that should be made as well, but S. 1634 is a start. It is my hope that a stronger Bill can come out of the House and the final legislation will be real reform. We have to use S. 1634 as the legislative vehicle for reform because the Ethnic Weeding of workers is well underway on the CNMI.

    Next week, on July 25, the new minimum wage will kick in. The Pirates of Saipan will use it to fire thousands of long-time workers. Then they will have 30 days to find a new job. Then they will be on a 45 day clock to deportation.

    That gives us 75 days (until October 8) to pass a final bill and have it signed into law. If it takes longer, more workers will be cleansed for the CNMI and denied justice.

    We need to stand with them as they fight for justice.

    For a very long time, Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff and the Republican Party blocked reform. If we fail now it will be our fault.

  • The thing I have always loved the most about America is that every single day, just by virtue of waking up, we have an opportunity to do something extraordinary. Sometimes we need more than that, though... An undeniable recognition that we are at a unique juncture, a brief moment in time when action is absolutely necessary and likely to accomplish something tremendous.

    I'm writing to tell you that this moment in time -- right now -- is such an occasion. These people can be saved; we just have to make our senators understand that human rights are important to us.

    Here are the members of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee:

  • Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
  • Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI)
  • Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND)
  • Ron Wyden (D-OR)
  • Tim Johnson (D-SD)
  • Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA)
  • Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
  • Ken Salazar (D-CO)
  • Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
  • Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
  • Bernard Sanders (D-VT)
  • Jon Tester (D-MT)
  • Pete V. Domenici (R-NM)
  • Larry E. Craig (R-ID)
  • Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
  • Richard Burr (R-NC)
  • Jim DeMint (R-SC)
  • Bob Corker (R-TN)
  • Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
  • Jim Bunning (R-KY)
  • Gordon Smith (R-OR)
  • Mel Martinez (R-FL)
  • John Barrasso (R-WY)

    If you see your senator above, please tell them to do the right thing. If you can call your favorite radio program, please do it. Isn't it obvious that ending this abuse is the right thing to do? The Senate's attention will move to another topic soon and these people will either be afforded human dignity or doomed to be exploited for years to come.

    When this time has passed, won't you be proud to know you spoke for human rights in your own country when it counted?

    UPDATE: Dengre has published an even newer post since I started (slowly) writing this.

    Labels: , , , ,