The Northern Marianas Descent Corporation says the recently passed US Senate Immigration Reform Bill threatens to disrupt the social, political, and economic aspirations of the indigenous people of the CNMI.
Part of the legislation grants improved status for some 11 million undocumented alien workers in America and the Corporation says its CNMI-specific provision paves the way to citizenship to long-term, legal foreign workers.
A member of the group, Felicidad T. Ogumoro, who's also a representative on the CNMI legislature, told Bridget Tunnicliffe that the vision of the indigenous people will never be realised if the section is signed into law.
FELICIDAD T. OGUMORO: The members of the Corporation maintain that section 2109 of the Senate Bill 744 seeks pathway to citizenship to more than 13,000 foreign workers and we're talking about foreign workers, we're not even mentioning about their dependents in the CNMI. What this would do is change and disrupt the social, political and economic livelihood and aspirations of the indigenous Chamorros and Carolinians who are of Northern Marianas descent who have always wanted to maintain their autonomy and be self-governing. And this self-governance is a right that is guaranteed and protected under the covenant the people of the CNMI entered into with the United States in 1976. This section stands to take away our rights to local self-governance as has been agreed upon and guaranteed under that covenant.
BRIDGET TUNNICLIFFE: Who makes up the large majority of those alien workers, where are they from?
FTO: Based on the statistics, the figures we are getting, the biggest number come from the Philippines.
BT: So has this been happening sort of slowly over the past 10, 20, 30 years, that these alien worker numbers have been slowly increasing over time?
FTO: Right now because of that mandate that says that we are going to control that number and by December 2014 the number would phase out, no alien worker should be here by that time so we want to make sure that that mandate is kept.
BT: What will happen to the economy though if you lose 23,000 people?
FTO: That is what the local people and the United States have to work with. We need to work with the United States government to make sure that our economy still survives. Also being very mindful that whatever the decision is that it would not be to the disadvantage of the indigenous people.
BT: That mandate to phase out the alien workers by the end of next year - are you concerned that there's going to be a backtrack on that promise?
FTO: I would not say that they would backtrack but I think right now we have to be serious about fulfilling that mandate but do take into consideration our continuing need for non-resident workers. I do not want to see a slacking off. Now if there is any need, let's talk about it but we have to really show that there is a real effort in reducing the number of alien workers here in the CNMI. Jobs must be available for the indigenous people, the US citizens that are here.
BT: Felicidad T. Ogumoro says the Bill is now before the house for consideration.