21 Apr 2017
- By Zaldy Dandan - firstname.lastname@example.org
I DON’T know if some people actually believe that their government could prevent all acts of fraud or any other crimes before they are committed.
As far as I can recall, that “happened” only in a 1956 sci-fi short story that was made by Steven Spielberg into a movie released in 2002, “Minority Report.” It was set in the year 2054, but even in fiction, the concept of a “pre-crime” police unit wasn’t exactly glitch-free.
So at least two contractors of Imperial Pacific are not paying their workers on time. And most or all of these “workers” are actually tourists. Now the CNMI no longer controls immigration, and it was the feds who approved the entry of these “tourists.” But I can’t blame the feds because they say they are doing their best to perform their duties, and they have many dedicated and experienced professionals who are working hard to secure U.S. borders and prevent the entry of “really bad dudes,” as America’s president would put it. What I also know is that the presence of overstaying foreigners is a huge problem in the states. There are over 11 million of them. According to PolitiFact Florida early this year, over 60 percent or 430,000 of 710,000 undocumented immigrants in the state alone were visa overstayers.
In the CNMI, which had over 530,000 tourist arrivals last year, there are 1,032 overstaying tourists working here illegally, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol told local lawmakers recently. Like Rep. Leepan Guerrero, I’m pretty sure that CBP can find and most likely have already tracked down most if not all of these “tourists.”
But no. It’s not OK that companies are not paying their workers on time, and it’s not OK that there are tourists — no matter how many — working here illegally and overstaying their visas. It’s illegal. It’s inexcusable. It is also not condoned by any CNMI official or resident.
During the recent protests staged by foreign workers, what else happened? The local Labor secretary was there to talk to the workers and to assure them that the CNMI government would help them get their back wages. A local business executive asked one of her Chinese-speaking staffers to act as an interpreter. The local police ensured that there would be no untoward incident. A local lawmaker offered food to the workers, who are not voters, and demanded answers from other local officials. Other local lawmakers expressed sympathy for the workers and are now drafting or introducing legislation directed against companies that hire illegal workers. The governor — who publicly denounced these illegal acts even before the FBI raided the offices of MCC and Beilida — said he will continue to work with legislators and the feds to address these problems.
On Tuesday, during another protest action, a local resident approached the workers, offered refreshments and apologized for what they were going through on her island.
We do not and we will not tolerate these illegal acts — that has been the consistent message from the people of the CNMI and their officials.
The erring contractors must be penalized. Overstaying tourists must leave the CNMI. The news about these cases and incidents should be relayed to prospective investors, airlines and tour agencies and through other means. The CNMI and the feds must be heard loud and clear: You hire illegal workers and we will shut you down and penalize you. You overstay your visa, we will go after you.
For its part, Imperial Pacific must be reminded that even if it has friends in high places, it will still be held accountable — public opinion will make sure of that, so it must do a better job in selecting its contractors.
Some say that all this is yet “another black eye” for the CNMI. Maybe. But considering the many horrible things happening around the world today — chemical weapons that are killing children in Syria, terrorists in Western Europe, a crazy fat boy with nukes in North Korea, a psychopathic president in the Philippines, appalling crimes and financial problems in the U.S., among many other things — I don’t think anyone anywhere in the world would be scandalized to learn that over 100 illegal workers are owed back wages on Saipan.
But the fact that this is considered an outrage here speaks well of the CNMI.
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