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12-08 CNMI Status Report Doromal

12-08 CNMI Status Report Doromal

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Published by Dennis
Human Rights activist Wendy Doromal has been working to end the abuse on the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI) since the mid 1980s. The CNMI is a US Territory in the Western Pacific some 40 miles North of Guam. It has been home to some of the worst sweatshops in American history and continues as a haven for illegal activities from drugs to money laundering to human trafficking. In December 2008, Doromal released a new report on the current human rights status on the rogue US Territory.
Human Rights activist Wendy Doromal has been working to end the abuse on the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI) since the mid 1980s. The CNMI is a US Territory in the Western Pacific some 40 miles North of Guam. It has been home to some of the worst sweatshops in American history and continues as a haven for illegal activities from drugs to money laundering to human trafficking. In December 2008, Doromal released a new report on the current human rights status on the rogue US Territory.

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Published by: Dennis on Feb 19, 2009
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05/10/2014

 
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U.S. COMMONWEALTH OF THENORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS (CNMI)STATUS REPORTDecember 2008By Wendy L. DoromalBACKGROUND
From 1984 to 1995 I lived and worked as a teacher and human rights advocate in the U.S.Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Since 1992, I have submitted reports andtestimony for U.S. Congressional Hearings on the labor and human rights abuses in the CNMI and issuesrelated to the foreign contract workers. They have been given to members of the U.S. Congress,Congressional Committees, CNMI, Philippine, Bangladesh, and U.S. government officials, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and national and international non-governmental agencies.This is a report that updates the current status of the alien workers in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), details issues which are relative to the imminent immigration changes,and makes recommendations for policies and regulations relating to PL 110-229. In July 2007, Iinterviewed foreign contract workers on Saipan, Rota, and Tinian. In December 2007, I returned to theCNMI to conduct further interviews with foreign contract workers on Saipan. Finally, I conductedinterviews on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota in July and August 2008. Within the six-month period of my lasttwo visits to the CNMI, I found that the deterioration of living conditions and the erosion of guestworkers’ rights were staggering.PL 110-229 is legislation that I have supported and embrace as a means of providing a just immigrationsystem to a U.S. commonwealth that has lacked one for decades. It is extremely important that federalofficials understand the living and working conditions and concerns of not just the residents of the CNMI, but the non-resident workers, since federal officials from the Departments of Homeland Security, Interior,State, Justice, and Labor are now drafting the regulations for the federal guest worker program.To evaluate the status and concerns of the nonresident workers, I conducted face-to-face interviews withhundreds of guest workers from the Philippines, Bangladesh, China, Nepal, Vietnam, Thailand, Korea,and Sri Lanka. I also met with U.S. citizen children of guest worker-parents, with attorneys, leaders of guest worker movements, CNMI and US government officials, religious leaders, and social workers.
 
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Legal documents, contracts, notes, videos, and photographs document the findings. For privacy purposesand to protect the guest workers from retaliation, hereinafter, the job category and nationality willdescribe the worker.
FINDINGSPoverty and Living Conditions
The CNMI labor and immigration laws have created a two-tiered society in the CNMI. Residents are primarily employed by the local government in the islands’ highest paying jobs, while foreign contractworkers earn poverty-level wages in the bottom tier. According to the August 4, 2008 GAO report, themedian household income in the CNMI fell from $22,898 in 2000 to $17,138 in 2004, and the per capitaincome in the CNMI decreased from $9,151 in 2000 to $6,178 in 2004.
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Over 46 percent of households inthe CNMI are earning below the poverty rate, as compared to less than 13 percent of households in theU.S. mainland earning below the poverty rate. The child poverty rate exceeds 50% in three of Saipan’sdistricts.
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 The poverty is evidenced in ramshackle housing, abandoned garment factories, and boarded up businesseson Saipan. Rota has become a virtual ghost town as businesses have closed and Rotanese families havemoved to the mainland or Guam seeking work and greener pastures. Karidat, a social-services agency that provides food and shelter for the needy, had the largest increase in clients in ten years in 2007 with 4515clients.The Consumer Price Index for the period of July to September 2008 rose to 120.2 compared to 113.8 for the same period in 2007, according to latest data from the Department of Commerce.
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Those figuresreflect a 14.7 index increase in housing and utilities, a 9.6 index increase in food, and a 3.4 index increasein medical care.The economy of the CNMI is in shambles. Guest workers and residents alike are suffering from the highcost of gasoline, commodities, and the highest utilities rates anywhere on U.S. soil.
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Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands: Managing Potential Economic Impact of Applying U.S.Immigration Law Requires Coordinated Federal Decisions and Additional Data, by the U.S. GovernmentAccountability Office (GAO), August 4, 2008.
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Saipan Tribune,
'CNMI yet to achieve same status as US',
 by Rianne Pangelinan-Brown, January 19, 2008.
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Saipan Tribune,
COMPARED TO JULY-SEPTEMBER 2007 Consumer prices rise in Q3
, by Kristi Eaton, November 15, 2008.
 
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 Housing 
Housing, for the majority of the guest workers, is substandard. Many guest workers pool their meager wages to share houses or rent tiny rooms. I visited a family where the parents live with their two U.S.citizen children in a room that is no more than 8 feet by 8 feet. They share a bathroom and outdoor kitchen with four other families that also have tiny rooms for living quarters. Rusting shipping containerson the property are home to rats. A security guard and a co-worker share a cramped apartment up a steepflight of rotted wooden stairs. It had one tiny window in the kitchen and was dark and shabby with antscrawling everywhere. A family of seven lives in a small 4-room shack with cement floors and a tin roof.Also living with them are two relatives with pending labor cases. A table composed of scraps of wood,some folding chairs, and futons on the floor are the only furniture.Some single men, families, and women rent small rooms in a steamy, decaying barracks that lacks air conditioning and basic furniture. Several of them said that they were three or four months behind on paying their rent. They were anxiously waiting for their stimulus checks, unpaid judgments for back wages they were owed, or tax returns from years past that they never received so they could pay the rent before they were evicted. Others lived in dilapidated houses located in narrow alley ways, in rooms thatonce held businesses within abandoned buildings, and in unfinished shacks.Higher paid guest workers live in apartments or houses that are comparable to those inhabited by the localresidents. However, the majority of the guest workers huddle in dormitory-style quarters or substandardhousing that could not possibly pass stateside building codes.A foreign contract worker who is behind on paying his rent told me that his landlord padlocked his roomwith all of his possessions inside. He asked for advice since he has a labor case against his employer for unpaid wages and is still waiting to receive his stimulus check. More and more foreign workers withlabor cases find themselves in similar situations. They are relying on friends and fellow non-residentworkers to provide them with food and a place to sleep while they search for a now job in a market thathas few open positions. They wait for back wages which can take months and even years to receive. Infact, under the dysfunctional labor system, many will never receive the wages they are owed. I have beentold that currently there are so many unemployed guest workers waiting for back wages and seekingemployment that the community of employed guest workers can no longer afford to care for all of them.

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