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    Thursday, November 23, 2017-7:37:02A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

Editorials 2017-October-20

Good job feds

FEDERAL prosecutors have secured the conviction of three individuals charged with, among other things, fraud in foreign labor contracting.

The victims are workers from Bangladesh who arrived here on permits issued by the federal government under the federal CW program.

The jurors who found the defendants guilty are local residents. The CNMI, then and now, has neither tolerated nor condoned labor and/or immigration abuses, and the local people are not exactly thrilled to learn that non-locals they have welcomed to their islands have committed acts for which the CNMI and the local people are often blamed.

“The CNMI has been plagued by illegal recruitment scams for more than 20 years,” said the acting U.S. district attorney. And he’s right. But it is also true that there are similar cases in the U.S. “In Texas, undocumented immigrants have no shortage of work.” That’s the headline of a Texas Tribune news story on Dec. 16, 2016. Earlier in the same year, BuzzFeed posted a special report titled “Bar None”: “Abusing foreign ‘guest workers,’ stealing their wages, even threatening their lives: There is almost no workplace offense so extreme that the U.S. government will not reward employers with the chance to do it again…. By its own admission, the [U.S.] Labor Department very frequently finds problems with guest workers’ labor conditions. In the 2014 fiscal year, it identified violations in 82 percent of the H-2 visa cases it investigated. Yet federal records show that the department bans — or to use its term, debars — very few companies, and in at least one year didn’t debar a single one in the entire country. Between 2010 and 2014, agency investigators identified nearly 1,000 companies that had violated H-2 laws, yet in that time period, the Labor Department debarred fewer than 150. Twelve employers were found to have each stolen more than $100,000 from their guest workers in that time period; only one was debarred.”

When these cases happen in the states, they blame a “broken immigration system” (which some federal officials want to be fully applicable in the commonwealth). When labor scams happen here, it’s a CNMI “plague.”

Good job NMI

THE U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis has reported that the CNMI’s real gross domestic product grew by 28.6 percent in 2016. This is not good news for those who are not political supporters of the governing party. It also doesn’t mean that the CNMI has solved all its problems, and that everything is now OK.

But the report can help explain why government retirees are getting their full pension; why the government is finally paying some of its land compensation obligations; why many government employees are getting pay raises; and why many other local residents are landing jobs in the private sector. There is also more funding for many critical public services, including CUC. Likewise, several local businesses and property owners are now doing much better, financially speaking. As for Rota and Tinian, revenue from the Saipan casino and the increase in tourist arrivals is providing them much needed additional funding.

Economic growth, however, doesn’t work like “magic.” It doesn’t make all our problems disappear; it may even create new ones. But for many island residents who still remember how dismal and dreary things were when the economy was in a freefall, the BEA report is welcome news indeed.