29 Jul 2013

Fears Bill will take away rights of indigenous CNMI to self-governance

7:07 am on 29 July 2013

A group representing the interests of the indigenous people of the Northern Marianas says a recently passed US Senate Immigration Reform Bill threatens to erode their rights to self-governance.

The Northern Marianas Descent Corporation says a CNMI-specific provision provides a pathway to citizenship to more than 15,000 foreign workers in the CNMI.

A group member, Felicidad T. Ogumoro, who's also a representative on the CNMI legislature, says when you include dependents, at least 23,000 foreigners live in the territory which has a total population of around 54,000.

She says the vision of the indigenous Chamorros and the Carolinians has always been to maintain their autonomy.

"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."

Felicidad T. Ogumoro says it seems to contradict the mandated immigration transition period, where workers, who aren't CNMI residents, are supposed to leave the territory at the end of 2014.