Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dad on Federalization

When I was in Florida I rummaged through my stored belongings and pulled out my letters from Dad. I kept basically every single letter he ever sent to me, Alex, or my mother. Most of the letters are short correspondences on yellow legal pad paper, but sometimes he would send me something he had written in some sort of official capacity. Several of those somethings are letters to the editor.

He mailed me this letter in 1998, about 10 years ago:
Dear Editor,

There is one important thing about limiting the length of stay for alien guest workers in the CNMI that has not been publicly discussed or explained. This letter will discuss and attempt to explain.

The Clinton administration has stated that it is against American democracy to have more than 50% of our population as guest workers who are unable to vote, politically powerless and are subjected to abuse. For this reason, the Administration is determined to amend the Covenant and apply the US immigration laws. Under the US immigration laws these guest workers could become eligible for US citizenship.

Indeed, Mr. Al Stayman has told the Chamber of Commerce that when (not if) the US immigration laws are made applicable, guest workers would be able to become US citizens and be able to vote and run for office. When that happens, the number of non-Chamorro and non-Carolinian voters might soon become the majority of the voters. As the majority voters, they could remove from office all Chamorro and Carolinian Senators, Congresspersons, Mayors, Governor and so on and so forth. They could amend the Constitution and kill Article 12. When all these have occurred, what would happen to the self-government that the people of the CNMI negotiated and acquired for themselves under the Covenant, in the exercise of their right to self-determination?

Fortunately for the CNMI, Congress has indicated that if the CNMI leaders take appropriate action to control immigration and stop labor abuses, Congress would not give Clinton what he wants, but if the CNMI leaders do not act, Congress will. Even Congress feels that the CNMI has let too many guest workers come in from too many foreign countries and have allowed some of them to stay too long. Many feel that the matter has gone out of control.

Now, the question for the CNMI leaders is, what can they do, locally, to control immigration and stop labor abuses? Some measures have been taken and other options are under consideration. These include: (1) putting a moratorium on the hiring of guest workers, (2) capping the number of guest workers in the garment industry and the size of that industry, (3) weeding out corruption in the labor and immigration offices, (4) prosecuting employers and closing down businesses who abuse guest workers, (5) prohibiting the number of guest workers from exceeding the number of US citizens in the CNMI, (6) allowing guest workers to transfer from one occupation to another and from one employer to another, (7) allowing illegal aliens to become legal under the amnesty law, (8) expediting the deportation of illegal aliens, and (9) limiting the number of years that a guest worker may stay in the CNMI.

The main reason for limiting the length of stay for guest workers is to prevent them from becoming long term (5 years or more) residents without gaining the right to vote. This limitation would not just satisfy the US' concerns, but would be fair to the guest workers because, no matter how long they stay in the CNMI, they would not be able to become voting citizens under the CNMI laws. The idea to not let guest workers become voting citizens was envisioned and agreed to in the Covenant.

In giving the CNMI control over immigration, the parties to the Covenant intended to grant the CNMI the ability to bring in guest workers without being overwhelmed by "immigrants" who would become citizens. Because the population was so small in the 1970's, the Covenant negotiators envisioned that allowing "immigration" through the US immigration laws might soon annihilate the Chamorro and Carolinian society.

Giving the CNMI control over immigration is an innovative arrangement which kills two birds with one stone. It stimulates and facilitates economic development, while maintaining political control among the people who gave up their lands and their sovereignty in order to further secure the national defense of the United States.

No doubt, limiting the length of stay for guest workers is uneconomical for private businesses. It is too costly to train someone to become a valuable and devoted employee only to lose him/her after 3 or 4 years and try to find a replacement. That is why all previous laws of this nature have been repealed whenever the time came for thousands of guest workers to be sent home.

However, the CNMI leaders have to make a difficult choice. Either they effectively control immigration, which means slower economic growth, or do nothing and have the US apply its laws, which means voting rights for the guest workers and lost of political control for the Chamorro and Carolinians.

It appears that the CNMI leaders have opted to control immigration, stop the abuses of guest workers and avoid the application of US immigration laws in order to keep control of their economic and political destiny.

Sincerley yours,

Ramon G. Villagomez
Fina Sisu Village
Saipan, MP 96950
Jesus Christ. Talk about a prophetic letter. I may be wrong, but it appears to me that the CNMI did the opposite of what he suggested. In doing the opposite, it would appear that the CNMI chose not to "control immigration, stop the abuses of guest workers and avoid the application of US immigration laws in order to keep control of their economic and political destiny."


Anonymous said...

Hi Saipan Blogger,

I'm trying to plan a trip from Korea to Saipan over the New Year. I'm having a really difficult time finding a place to stay that is less than $200/night... If you could let me know if there is a hostel or an affordable place to stay for 4 days I'd be so greatful! My email is

Thanks so much,

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

I recommend trying Century Hotel. They have a great deal where you can rent a car and get a hotel room for about $100, plus they have a 24 hour cafe and a bar on site. It is not on the beach, but it is only one block away from most of the bars and restaurants in the tourist area.

Ian said...

Let's talk about this sometime. When I get back or before.

bradinthesand said...

...and if she's hot i have another option that wouldn't cost anything ;)

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

Is that Hotel Leavurdignityatthedoor?

O. Calimbas said...

Amazing foresight. I would also say that it's not contradictory when your father mentions how controlling immigration would both stimulate economic development and slow economic growth. I bet he had an alternative model in mind. Instead of large scale developments, like casinos and garment factories, we could see a smaller scale of development that would be more in tune with the islands. This sounds like it could fit in with one of your old posts regarding eco-focused businesses. (Like father, like son?)

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

This post touches on the difference between growth and development.

Saipan Writer said...

I never agreed with the repeated efforts to force alien workers to depart the CNMI after a certain number of years. That seemed punitive and unfair to both businesses and workers. In 5 years time, workers could already have established families here, with US citizen children. And it seemed to me that if the concern was that they were denied an opportunity to get more permanet status and voting rights, the remedy was to give them that opportunity, not shove them out of sight.

But I agree with all of the rest of your father's letter, for what should have been done, what could have been done, and what was not done consistently or successfully.

There were moments when it looked like the CNMI might turn the corner. Obviously, he wrote this letter at one of those points.

But we relapsed to our addictions and bad ways.

And of course, finally, the US Congress said enough.

Lil' Hammerhead said...

We relapsed a number of times. Promised the feds higher minimum wage.. relapsed. Quotas on non-resident worker numbers.. relapsed. Moratoriums on garment factories.. relapsed.