These are my comments in opposition to three parts of s.1237, titled the Omnibus Territorial Act of 2013, currently before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources with a sister House bill HR 2200, or as I call it, "The Reverse CNMI Federalization Bill of 2013".

Comments for the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing regarding s.1237 scheduled for Thursday, July 11, 2013 at 9:30 am

Good morning Senators.  I am a long time teacher in the CNMI having taught over four thousand students in five schools including two islands from grades one to college in different classroom capacities.  No person, business, or organization compensated me in any manner for this statement, which I shall consider sworn testimony.

These comments relate only to Section 4 Adjustment of scheduled wage increases in the CNMI and Section 5 Amendments to the Consolidated Natural Resources Act and no other portion of the Omnibus bill except perhaps the logic of sending immigration matters to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

An interesting question for Americans, and security issue for the 21st century is “can the US Congress be bought”.  We know it has happened recently, but can foreign interests still pay lobbyists to enact legislation that will harm citizens?

While mainland Americans debate immigration reform, s. 1237 is a lesser known immigration bill supported by big business in the Marianas Islands, and slipped into the Territorial Omnibus Act of 2013 with no fanfare or publicity, not even a comment period, and it would continue the two tiered system of servitude that Jack Abramoff’s multi-million dollar lobby of the US House of Representatives so effectively advanced in Saipan, CNMI, USA.

CNMI Governor Eloy Inos supports it; but he was originally appointed Lt. Governor by the infamous impeached former governor Ben Fitial hiding from the law, or under protection, in shame, abroad, to replace our previous Lt Guv now in federal prison.  All the aforementioned opposed the CNRA and judging by their lifestyles, CNMI politicians are incredibly well compensated public servants.

The legislation delays minimum wage increases, extends the transition period, and allows non visa holding foreign operators to do business in the CNMI indefinably.
CNMI citizens overwhelmingly support an escalation in wages and a comment period among citizens will confirm that fact before this bill is steamrolled into law.

Two tiered labor and immigration schemes for insular areas are at least an ongoing human rights concern, if not an international embarrassment, and citizens must demand one cohesive immigration policy for all so that the ideals of our nation are applied equally on US soil.

One foreign business group operating without US visas here is demanding citizenship in our newspapers; not their poor disenfranchised underpaid workers mind you; but their foreign owners.   They claim to employ a thousand persons; how many citizens they employ, if any, are unclear.  Americans can be exceedingly proud to know all have a right to freedoms of speech and press guaranteed by our people.

What other nation would entertain such demands?  How would China answer such demands from Americans?

The US State Department 2013 report says the CNMI is a “destination and transit location for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking”; and to greatly improve our Commonwealth, we must demand it stop, and enforcing the CNRA regulations will do that.

The US screens backgrounds and restricts numbers of visas and guest workers for valid economic and security reasons but the 10k CNMI voters must compete for work opportunity against more foreign nationals than voters; harming citizens in perpetuity?    

Non-US visa businesses operating in our Commonwealth are problematic.  After years of debate and multiple comment periods, brilliantly crafted regulations for the CNRA addressed these issues in the best interests of local citizens by requiring US visas by 2014 with no possible extensions.  These questionable businesses are the source of CNMI labor abuse, originate human trafficking and exploitation, pay little in tax revenue, made baby tourism a CNMI industry, distribute the ice, operate the Saipan sex trade industry, may be fugitives at home, don’t know or follow US labor laws, are constantly guilty of guest worker non-payment, and SELDOM EMPLOY US CITIZENS.  

We need the CNMI cleaned up; we need citizens employed; we need small business opportunity for our youth, and extending the E2-C indefinably will be a heart-breaking loss for young local citizens and goes against the intent of the Consolidated Natural Resources Act as stated “assisting the Commonwealth in achieving a progressively higher standard of living for citizens of the Commonwealth through the provision of technical and other assistance”.

The status quo has turned the CNMI economy into a welfare state with no equal in US history, and this legislation would ensure that fact worsens for citizens.  Millions of unemployed US mainland voters should also have concerns with such pork barrel spending given the massive funding US taxpayers pour into the Northern Marianas Islands.

So in closing, restrict the minimum wage if you must as its only fifty cents.  Extend the transition period guaranteeing high unemployment among citizens if big business insists.  But with all due respect, Senators, please don’t consider amending the economic protections for local citizens ensured by the Consolidated Natural Resources Act and proposed in Section 5 b. of s.1237.

Adhering to US visa laws will improve our Commonwealth and ensure economic opportunity for local citizens.  

Americas here cordially welcome legal investors from many nations with open arms, but CNMI citizens also disserve the same protections as the US mainland.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

Very respectfully,

Ron Hodges

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