Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Taotao Writes Back

Alright, so that title is a subtle attempt to bring the Force back to this blog. Can somebody teach me how to photoshop a light saber into Oreo's paw?

Immigration rights activist Wendy Doromal has been collecting letters from foreign workers since her two visits to the CNMI in 2007. She's been showing them to Senators and Representatives in the hopes of quick passage for H.R. 3079.

Well, now the Taotao Tanos are writing their own letters. Here's the text:
Dear Senator:

I am writing to you as a concerned citizen, regarding H.R. 3079, the Immigration, Security and Labor Act that was passed in the House of Representatives in December 2007 and is being fast-tracked as part of the Omnibus bill. As members of the Senate, I urge that H.R. 3079 be referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee to be closely reviewed as a stand-alone bill, paying particular attention to its discriminatory nature of the economic and human rights impacts on the people of the Mariana Islands.

-H.R. 3079 is discriminatory by directly targeting the people of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and creating greater economic hardships. H.R. 3079 will further the level of poverty by creating more barriers to the development of a local economy, which relies heavily on tourism and investors of tourism .

-H.R. 3079 infringes upon the sovereignty of the indigenous peoples of the CNMI, whose political status was negotiated upon the termination of the United Nations trusteeship. The political rights were determined to be governed by the solemn Covenant, which granted local control of labor and immigration and also in collaboration with the United States. H.R. 3079 would give control of labor and immigration to the Department of Homeland Security, thus undermining the mutual trust and cooperation that has endured for decades.

-H.R. 3079 may violate the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act. With reports of upwards to 50,000 workers during a 5 to 10 year period that H.R. 3079 may provide to companies seeking a quick means for cheap labor for the intensified military buildup in the CNMI and the neighboring island of Guam, the question remains of the burden on the infrastructure , and the resources that is not accounted for by Congressional Budget Office.

-H.R. 3079 enables abuses of the human rights to self-determination of the Chamorro people of Guam by providing a means to expedite the military buildup that was decided without their consent and participation and against the legal and moral responsibility of the U.S.A, as a signatory of the United Nations Charter, to ensure the full exercise of these human rights.

I urge you to review closely H.R. 3079 as single and separate matter from the Omnibus Bill, and to reconsider the facts put forth before you for the sake of peace and stability in these islands and for the human rights of self-determination to which we all are entitled.


Taotao Tano
About a year ago I wrote an Open Letter to the US Senate concerning the increase in the minimum wage. If anything, I thought my stance was fair. If not a single Senator read it, I'm at least comforted to know that Diana's mom read it.

A year later, there is news in the local paper that the Feds may have acted in haste. They are now looking to modify the minimum wage increase. Hmmm, maybe they should have read my letter?

I'd write a second Open Letter to the US Senate, but I don't think it would be worth my time. This thing looks like it is on a fast track, no matter what we do.

A few years back when Puerto Rico was exploring the idea of changing their status, they put it to an island wide vote. The options were to become a state, become independent, or maintain the same status. They voted to maintain the same status. The US respected their choice.

Ambrose Bennett and Zaldy Dandan have both proposed the idea of a non binding referendum to gauge support for the federal takeover. I think that's a great idea.

If 80% of voters actually support federalization, then the governor and all the other leaders can accept it knowing that it is the will of the people. If 5% of the people support it, then we will know that this is indeed a federal takeover, against the will of the CNMI.

What does it take to have a special election?

A while back the Saipan Tribune asked me my opinion of Federalization for one of their Man on the Street articles. I answered :
People usually say that the only sure things are death and taxes.
The people of the CNMI can add immigration and labor reform to that list.
I think that about sums it up.


Jed Horey said...

I can't recall the last time I agreed with Zaldy or Ambrose about anything in this area, but I also think a referendum on federalization is a great idea. However, I believe that it should be a binding referendum.

A non-binding referendum will be like the Florida Democratic primary -- distorted and inconclusive. Many people will not bother to vote at all. Others will vote to send a message, but might well vote differently if they knew they were really going to have to live with the results.

For the procedure, see Article IX Section 2 of the NMI Constitution: "The people may reject laws by referendum." There needs to be a petition signed by at least 20% of persons qualified to vote, certified by the AG at least 30 days before a general election.

If the referendum is limited to Title I of the bill (the immigration section), and does not include Title II (the non-voting delegate section), it could be put on the ballot this November together with the election for delegate.

Jeff said...

It's one not full member of congress introducing it.

As for what people want, the polls say they want out of Iraq and in large numbers, but that isn't happening.

If this place wants to call all its own shots, bring in all the contract workers it wants and set the minimum wage at 10 cents, they can be independent and do so, but it seems to have a taste for federal dollars in all their forms. If you're a young adult and you don't like your parents' rules, you move out. You give up that security and get freedom. This place wants to do what it wants without any strings attached. It's not going to happen and it shouldn't happen.

Saipan Writer said...

I've blogged about federalization and minimum wage, too. My very first blog post on 1/13/2007 (hey, I've been blogging for a year!), was on federalization.

And I predicted that the minimum wage law was designed for failure and to make sure there would be room to argue against the incremental increases (posts 89, 90, 136 I think)--and alas, that's what we're seeing now.

The blog post, which I turned into a letter to the editor, that got the most responses--and very favorable ones--was #171--the myth of the lazy local, in which I said our local population is filled with people who can and do work, all we really need is a higher wage to attract them into the workforce. Yet, our governor, in charge of the government position, argues strenuously against the marginal increase that we're expecting this summer--the one that takes us to $4.05/ hour. By then, gas will be at about that price per gallon.

I'm in favor of federalization. I'd also like to see the federal minimum wage bill not attacked, not undermined by our governor and the American Samoan delegation in Congress.

A special election on federalization would be interesting--but I can't imagine that the cost would be warranted, especially if the results came in at 50-50 or close to it. And I can imagine people not voting, when the only purpose is to provide "information" or political fodder, and not have the vote really count.

The other concern I have about a special election is that the majority of workers in the CNMI are disenfranchised, so that those human beings with rights that hang in the balance from federalization would have no voice.

Mostly, I want federalization to put an end to the speculation, uncertainty, and endless politicking about the issue!

majicmarc said...

I can show you how to give Oreo Kenobi a light saber! (lol)

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

I love the name Oreo Kenobi!

I agree with Jane on the part about seeing an end to the speculation. However, forcing through the federal takeover is not the only way to end uncertainty. The feds could also end their federal takeover bid.

Just playing devil's advocate.

I'll go along with Jed and say that a BINDING referendum would be a better idea. That would end some of the bickering on both ends, where each side says they have the support of the majority.

Jeff said...

So if we have a referendum can everyone who is here vote, or just the 1/3 that sets the policy for the other 2/3?

Jed Horey said...

Right. If federalization is approved, its opponents won't be able to blame it on Al Stayman. If it is rejected, its proponents won't be able to blame that on Jack Abramoff. The people themselves will have spoken, presumably after a lively campaign in which all the pros and cons of the bill can be meaningfully debated.

jay said...

well...this issue that is pending before the CNMI people is unfortunate. The biggest problem that many of them has is the fact that mainlanders to include myself are treated with superior distinction.

What I mean is that nowhere in the United states would any federal law be enacted in any state if it contradicted the expressed wishes of the people (US citizens).

By the Congress doing they were divisive and failed to even consider that they acknowledge a separate US citizen class for the CNMI people.

Originally from Florida, I see the events of the Native American Indians and the CNMI people as one and the same...Screwed.

First there can not be a referendum regarding federalization. Even if by some reason one were to happen it would only require the participants to be of CNMI indigenous persons.

I believe that the CNMI people are entitled to their guaranteed right to autonomy and that if any federal law was to be applied at the very least wait for an economic study.

I see the biggest problem here in Saipan is that individuals from the USA are trying to determine and undermine many policies for these people. It's apparent that neither I nor the mainland teachers were party in any negotiations for their covenant.

Cant we just respect their inherent rights. I recommend that all of us read and be educated on their convenant and what was the intents of each negotiator.

Our US constitution is made up for the people and the preamble states this..."We the People." Likewise the CNMI Constitution was for the CNMI people.

SteeleOnSaipan said...

I like the part "if 80% of voters actually support federalization, then the governor and all the other leaders can accept it knowing that it is the will of the people."

Riiiiiiight. You mean the same way that they've accepted the people's will regarding casinos this past election?

Jeff said...

Congress does things all the time that aren't popular or even in the interests of a majority of people. They passed a bankruptcy bill written by the credit card companies. They passed a prescription drug bill written by the pharmaceutical industry. The Iraq thing is a wet dream for oil and the military industrial complex. The South wasn't exactly cheering for the Civil Rights Act of 64 or the Voting Rights Act of 65, but they were both done over the strenuous objections of numerous redneck politicians.

majicmarc said...

I got bored and started playing around with your header image while trying to figure out how to do a tutorial on light sabers, and here's what I came up with:

I'll post a tutorial at the end of the day. I should have finished this silly business card layout earlier...

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

That's hot.

Marianas Eye said...

The light sabre looks cool. Now, how about getting rid of the puppy.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

Tell you what? If your four kids say take off the puppy, I'll take off the puppy.

ndr12 said...

light saber tutorial using photoshop:

KAP said...

The referendum on "federalization" has already been held. It's called the Covenant.

Comparisons to indian tribes are lame. The U.S. has followed this particular treaty. It's Stanley and the Angel Santos wannabes who want to 'revisit' it.

Also, the so-called minimum wage report is a laugher. There was no study; it's just conclusions. I've got it at my blog if you're interested in reading it yourself.

James said...

Nobody has stopped the local government from holding a referendum these past few years. They did not do so, because they wished to be able to represent that the Commonwealth electorate was monolithic in its opposition to Federalization. That clearly turns out not to be so; many local people, as well as off-islanders, are in favor of Federalization, including prominent legislators such as Sen. Maria Pangelinan.

And Jed, only CNMI laws can be rejected by referendum. Article IX, Sec. 2 of the CNMI Constitution allows for two types of CNMI laws to be rejected by referendum: a general law for the Commonwealth, and a law affecting only one senatorial district. That's why any referendum on HR 3079 cannot be binding. Who would it bind?

And just about 80% of the voters did approve Federalization of immigration by the Congress when they approved the Covenant, including Section 503, which provides that Immigration and naturalization laws of the United States will not apply to the Marianas "except in the manner and to the extent made applicable to them by the Congress by law after termination of the Trusteeship Agreement."

I think it's time for people to start thinking about how we can make the new system work, once the bill passes, rather than putting their time and effort into efforts to forestall it. If we repeat the same mistakes that have been made this past year, we will wind up with regulations drafted by DHS with no local input, because the CNMI government will still be in denial that Federalization is about to occur. We need to sit at the table and discuss how we want this new system to work, as we should have sat down with those drafting the Federalization bill. The CNMI would have gotten a better deal if its leaders had done so. The CNMI will get a better deal if it is part of the process of drafting the regulations.

Ron Hodges said...

I agree 100% with the posts of Saipan Writer and Jeff.

A myth about federalization here and abroad is that guest workers are 100% for federalization, which is not true. The other fallacy in the national media is that local islanders are against federalization, which again, is not true.

I think locals here have more to gain from federalization than any other ethnic group.

The light sabre would be better wielded by Angelo than the pup.

Jed Horey said...

James, a few questions:

1. How can you hold a referendum on a law that doesn't exist yet, and thus is subject to change? For example, a referendum six months ago on the immigration bill in its original form (with the grandfather clause) may well have yielded a different result from a referendum today on the bill in its current form.

2. If the immigration bill is not a "general law for the Commonwealth," what is?

3. How do you propose to reconcile Section 503 of the Covenant with Section 103 (the guarantee of the NMI people's right to self-government as to internal affairs)?

4. Did not the governor sit down with David Cohen in 902 talks? Why is the administration's disagreement with Interior on these issues so often mischaracterized as a refusal even to discuss them?

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

Hey Jim, saying 80% approved (insert what you said) is like saying 80% approved today's diminished use of the Chamorro language.

In 1976 50.1% of Americans wanted Jimmy Carter to be president, but now he's polling lower than Howard Stern.

Using that data makes for a bogus argument. I call shenanigans.

People change. The world changes.

Vote for Obama.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

...and you'll probably find that the local government will be more interested in working with you after the ink dries.