Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan (Ind-MP) said there are difficult decisions that have to be made for the good of the CNMI and the nation, “whether the issue is gun control to make our citizens safer, or immigration reform to make citizens of those who contribute to our society, whether to tax more or less, to spend more or less,” during a ceremonial oath-taking speech yesterday.
Sablan, at the same time, said the results of the 2012 elections proved that people “voted for some higher principle, for some sense of what is right and what is wrong for the good of all of us for the Commonwealth.”
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona administered the oath of office to Sablan at a public investiture held at the Marianas High School gymnasium yesterday morning, with his wife Andrea and mother Victorina by his side.
Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, Lt. Gov. Eloy S. Inos, lawmakers, visiting U.S. Department of the Interior officials led by acting deputy assistant secretary for insular affairs Eileen Sobeck, Office of Insular Affairs director Nik Pula and other federal officials led the dignitaries at the ceremony.
Fitial said he's “very impressed” with Sablan's speech, and that's he's “very happy” to be at the event. Pula also welcomed Sablan's remarks.
Sablan serves a third term as the CNMI's first and so far only nonvoting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, amid renewed discussions about reforming the nation's broken immigration system.
This time, the Obama administration and many in Congress are seeing eye-to-eye on granting pathway to citizenship to more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
Sablan said his office has started working on ensuring that the CNMI is included in a national immigration reform bill.
“The devil is in the details,” he told Saipan Tribune. “We'd lose out if we're not included in this.”
Sablan supports granting improved immigration status to thousands of legal, long-term immigrant workers in the CNMI.
He hopes that they, too, will be granted pathway to citizenship at a time when the Obama administration and Congress want to give the same benefit to undocumented aliens in the mainland.
Sablan's ceremonial swearing in on Saipan comes hours after President Barack Obama, in a speech in Las Vegas, threw his full support behind a comprehensive overhaul of U.S. immigration laws, saying "now’s the time" to replace a system he called "out of date and badly broken.”
'It does matter'
Before reading his prepared speech, Sablan asked for a moment of silence to pray for the CNMI's men and women in uniform who are about to be mobilized for deployment soon.
In his 14-minute speech, Sablan thanked the CNMI people for allowing him to continue to work for them in Congress.
His public investiture in the CNMI came 27 days after he and 440 other members of the 113th U.S. House of Representatives took their oath in Washington, D.C.
“Significantly, those of us who take that oath do not swear to get whatever we can for our constituents.Instead we swear to uphold the Constitution-the Constitution-whose primary goal is not individual advancement, but rather a more perfect union of 'We, the people,' a nation, all together, with justice for all, secure and at peace, where everyone may prosper,” he said.
He said having a CNMI delegate in Congress “does matter,” contrary to what others may have said. He said, “It does matter to be part of our national government.”
“I know that even after the White House said: no more money for territories in the health care reform bill, I sat at the table with President Obama and more was added. And I know that those heath care dollars-over $100 million more-$16 million paid over in just the last year and a half have helped to keep the Commonwealth Health Center open, perhaps saved a life,” he added.
Sablan won by landslide during the Nov. 6 midterm elections. He said he's humbled by that vote.
He said he “can see clearly the gap between what we have been able to accomplish and how much more work remains ahead-not only for the good of the Northern Mariana Islands, but for the good of our nation as a whole.”
In his speech, which he started reading at 9:35am, Sablan cited examples of elected officials who made decisions they knew would be unpopular because they knew they were the “right decisions.”
He cited examples of those who refused to compromise their principles, including a lone Republican in the U.S. House that voted for the health care reform bill in 2009. Sablan said former Rep. Ahn “Joseph” Cao of Louisiana stood up in the face of all other Republicans to do what he thought was right.
“Joseph Cao lost re-election. But he will never lose my respect for his courage,” Sablan added.
He said today, at least, those elected in the CNMI in November “can feel secure because the will of the voters seems so clear.”
But he said all things are fleeting, “that there will come a day-and it won't be long-when any one of us will have to risk the displeasure of neighbors and friends.”
“We may have to choose to put the good of the Commonwealth ahead of what benefits Rota, or Tinian, or Saipan or the Northern Islands individually.We may have to put the long-term good of our nation ahead of any short-term gain for the people we represent. We may risk your displeasure. We may risk our own political demise. But that is what you elected us to do,” he added.
Sablan added that the CNMI has his promise in “making judgments for the national good.”
“Whether the issue is gun control to make our citizens safer, or immigration reform to make citizens of those who contribute to our society, whether to tax more or less, to spend more or less-in all these policy debates I will remember the individual human beings affected,” he said.
He quoted his colleague Emanuel Cleaver who recently told him that government policy is a picture frame, and within that frame of policy he sees the face of each and every individual Americans.
“That image is meaningful to me. But it demonstrates the difficult decisions you have asked me to make. Weighing the good of the many against the interests of a few, the needs of today against the hope of tomorrow, balancing, choosing on your behalf, always seeing your faces before me, knowing every decision has a human cost,” he added.
Paula Gozon, 14, said one of the things she liked most about the delegate's remarks is that he will continue to help people.
“It was my first time to attend this kind of ceremony. I'm happy he will continue to help us,” Gozon added.