Hafa Adai Senator!
I am writing to you in the hopes that you consider my comments in regards to pending legislation that would affect the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Before doing so, however, please allow me to give you a little background as to who I am and what I represent:
My name is Angelo Villagomez and for the last 10 months I have lived on the island of Saipan. I recently returned to the islands of my forefathers after having lived in the US, England, and Japan for 24 years. Although I have only been back for a short time, I plan on making this island my home for many years to come, so I am very concerned with our future and our relationship with the US.
I received all of my education, from kindergarten on, in America, first in Massachusetts and then later in Florida and Virginia. College lead me towards a career in the environmental field, and like most environmentalists, I identify with the principles of the Democratic Party. As such, I understand many of the concerns that the Democratic Party has about the CNMI.
I am not writing this letter to defend the CNMI; I am writing this letter to ask that you consider the people in the CNMI, such as myself, with no political or economic power when you draft legislation that would affect all of us living here.
Like most people on Saipan, I despise the abuses that have occurred on these islands. Additionally, like most people on Saipan, I had nothing to do with the abuses. I have never met Tom Delay or Jack Abramoff and I have never worked for the CNMI government or a garment factory.
The pending legislation that would increase our minimum wage from $3.05 to $7.25 will have a profound effect on my life and the lives of every single person on these islands, not just the people and businesses involved in the Jack Abramoff scandals. I am concerned that Congress is acting too fast and I am concerned that the full effects of this minimum wage increase are not being taken into account.
Let me be clear: I am not opposed to the minimum wage. I support an intelligent increase to a level that would provide a living wage for our local and overseas workers.
My concern is with how it is being done. I am concerned that the on the ground situation in the CNMI is not being taken into account by lawmakers 8000 miles away in Washington DC.
I faithfully believe that a Democratically led House and Senate are in the best interests of America and the CNMI. One thing that sets the Democratic Party apart from the Republican Party is that we do not insist that America act unilaterally. We understand that working together produces more meaningful results.
With this understanding, I humbly request that you make it a priority to educate yourself about the situation in the CNMI before drawing up any legislation or before casting a vote that would have a profound effect on our economy and our livelihoods.
The people involved in the Jack Abramoff scandals deserve no leniency, but for the sake of the rest of the American citizens living in the CNMI, I humbly request that, before moving forward with any legislation, the US Senate commission economic studies exploring the effects of raising the minimum wage on our economy, consider sending representatives to the CNMI on a site visit, and in the mean time help us come up with industries to replace the dying garment factories, which most people expect to be gone by the end of 2007 with or without a change in the minimum wage.
Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. Please provide me with a response.
Si Yu'us Mase,
-Reposted by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs David B. Cohen on Daily Kos on January 23, 2007 (scroll to the bottom of the comments).
-Quoted by Dengre on his Daily Kos Diary on January 24, 2007 (scroll down to fourth quote box)