Justice for Nonresidents in the Northern Marianas

  • by: Unheard No More!
  • recipient: President Obama, U.S. Congress, Secretaries of Interior, Labor and DHS

We support the nonresidents of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) in their quest for green cards and a pathway to citizenship as expressed in this petition We appeal to you to take immediate action to secure their standing and to keep their families together:

Those of us signing this petition represent the great diversity of people who will be impacted by the implementation of federal immigration law beginning on November 28, 2009 pursuant to Public Law 110-229.  We are the foreign contract workers, the CNMI permanent residents and nonresident spouses.  We are the Freely Associated States citizens and their nonresident spouses and family members. We are nonresidents who are married to U.S. citizens, and the widows and widowers of U.S. citizens.  We are the U.S. citizen children of nonresidents and the foreign-born children of U.S. citizens and nonresidents. We are the parents of disabled and special needs U.S. citizen children. And we are the residents and U.S. citizens who support the nonresidents in the cause for status.

Public Law 110-229 takes effect on November 28, 2009 this year, and it is still unclear what will become of us.  The law establishes a goal of phasing out the CNMI guest worker program and requires a report from the Department of Interior as to the numbers of guest workers in the CNMI, and recommendations for status, if any.  There is no assurance that there will be recommendations for status, nor any assurance that status would be granted through subsequent legislation even if such recommendations were made. 

We appeal to you today to support the introduction of legislation that would grant green cards and a pathway to citizenship to long-term foreign workers and nonresidents.  The majority of us have been in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands for more than five years.   Many of us have lived and worked here for 10, 15, even 20 or more years. Hundreds of us have lived and worked in the CNMI for more years than we have lived in our home countries.  Some of us came to the CNMI as young adults and we now have children and grandchildren. To all of the nonresidents signing this petition, the CNMI is our beloved home. 

The current CNMI guest worker program has allowed us to continually renew our contracts year after year after year, but denied us any opportunity to adjust to permanent status.  Each year that our stay has been lengthened in the CNMI the roots that we have established grow deeper and stronger, though our status as temporary guest workers remains the same. 

We left our homelands with little but hope and dreams for our future and excitement that we were going to work on U.S. soil. We have built quality lives here.  Many of us no longer have connections to our former homelands.  Many of us have no job prospects, no homes and no support systems in the places that we left so long ago. Many of us have spent sweat, tears, and the best years of our lives building the CNMI, performing our jobs honorably and with distinction.  We love the Marianas and the people in our community.  We belong to churches and social groups; we volunteer in island-wide cleanups and in our children%u2019s schools.  Many of us have children who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.  We are valuable workers and law-abiding, contributing members of our island home. We call upon you to provide protection and equal rights to those of us who have dedicated our lives to building and developing this great U.S. commonwealth. 

In 2000 the U.S. Senate unanimously passed legislation that would have provided us with status.  However a provision for U.S. status did not make into the final version of the bill that would become part of Public Law 110-229. While we understand that permanent status and a pathway to citizenship for us in the CNMI may be included in future national comprehensive immigration reform legislation, we plead with you not to wait.  We are legal guest workers who were invited here to build the economy and infrastructure of the Northern Marianas, and who were allowed to stay, year after year, with no prospect for adjusting to permanent residency let alone a pathway to citizenship.  We have a special and urgent situation that was created by a unique and unjust set of CNMI immigration and labor laws.

There is precedent for such relief.  In the 1980s, the Virgin Islands and Congress realized that special legislation was needed to prevent the separation of guest workers from their U.S. citizen families. Congress passed a law allowing guest workers in the Virgin Islands to adjust to permanent residency status.  Congress should pass a similar law tailored to the unique needs of the CNMI.

It is easy for labor-exporting countries and host countries to view foreign workers as replaceable commodities that serve the economies for the nations concerned.  But we are people; people with families and friends we love deeply. We are people who have used our needed skills to advance our adopted community economically and socially. For decades, we have been living as a disenfranchised underclass in a two-tiered society under the U. S. flag.  We continue to hold out hope that the United States of America will grant us status and allow our families to stay together in the place we have called home all these years.

Our children, most of whom are U.S. citizens, stay awake at night anxiously contemplating the fate of their parents and the future of their families.  They live in fear of being exiled to foreign countries where they cannot speak the language and where they may face limited educational opportunities, a poorer quality of healthcare and a deep plunge in their quality of life as a whole.

Our uncertain status does not make our children less American.  Our children are the future of this commonwealth as much as any child who calls the CNMI home and they are deserving of the same rights and opportunities as any U.S. citizen.  We appeal to you to protect them and ensure that their future is bright.

The importance of secure families and a skilled, reliable and stable workforce in the CNMI is essential, especially during these times of extreme social and economic hardship. Granting U.S. permanent residency and a pathway to citizenship to the legal CNMI nonresidents, would ensure that families would not be split apart, businesses would benefit from a stable labor pool of skilled and reliable workers, and the economy would recover.

We urgently request that you to take the next moral and much-needed step to deliver justice in the CNMI by moving quickly to grant us permanent U.S. status and a pathway to citizenship. 


Thank you for your consideration.

The undersigned guest workers and nonresidents of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and their supporters,



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