Dover Bitch

Thursday, July 19, 2007

S.1634 Hearing recap

[UPDATE: Selise recorded the audio and made a podcast available here.]

No big surprises in today's hearing. The most interesting part was learning that a similar bill was introduced in the House.

Here's my quick recap:

Chairman Bingaman opened the hearing, handed off the mic to Sen. Akaka, and left to take care of some other business. Akaka was the only Senator to say anything, probably the only one there (hard to see on the crappy webcast).

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs David Cohen said things are much better in CNMI than they were five years ago, but there is still a long way to go, CNMI doesn’t have the money/resources to do it alone, and with military development and spending in Guam, this is a post-9/11 issue of national security. (Imagine that, 9/11 rhetoric actually helping the little guy)

CNMI Governor Benigno Fitial and Saipan Chamber of Commerce President Juan T. Guerrero complained that the bill wasn’t necessary, that they’ve got everything under control, that the bill will destroy their fragile economy, that foreign investment will dry up if it passes and that more studies are needed before any action is taken. Essentially, they are trying to stall, which has been their strategy for decades, even articulated with hidden cameras recording conversations by people in control of sweatshops.

Resident Representative Pedro A. Tenorio was urging passage with amendments to protect CNMI from losing skilled workers too quickly, since they could potentially leave freely (imagine that) if they were granted federal status.

Finally, Department of Interior Labor Ombudsman James Benedetto had a few comments about the progress that has been made and the work still left to be done.

There was no testimony from any of the “guest workers.” That was submitted in writing by Dengre, collected in CNMI by human rights advocate Wendy Doromal.

Please continue to contact senators on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and urge them to support S.1634 and real reform in CNMI.

Thanks to everybody who has been supportive. Thanks, Digby, for allowing me to cross-post.

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