A ranking member of the U.S. House Resources Committee ended yesterday a low-key visit to the Northern Marianas in what appeared to be part of the elaborate preparation for the forthcoming oversight hearing on the island’s conditions in Washington D.C.
Rep. Bob Schaffer (R-Colorado) was the latest in a string of visitors from Congress who toured the island in recent weeks following the visit of Manase Mansur, chief aide to Resources Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska), and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).
Schaffer, who arrived with a religious leader from the mainland, left yesterday morning after meeting with federal and local officials, garment workers and other business leaders.
He also toured several garment factories to see for himself the working conditions there, according to officials.
Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio disclosed to reporters that his discussion with the visiting legislator focused on labor issues, including allegations of abuse and nonpayment of wages of alien workers in the CNMI.
“He was here just to see for himself what is going on here in the CNMI,” he said.
“We did not actually discuss some of the issues but he is concerned about the employees as well as the employers. They want to make sure that everybody has been protected, even the employers should be protected too,” added Tenorio.
Schaffer’s visit came just a few days after Mansur, who is Young’s adviser on insular and international affairs, made a five-day tour of the island to brief CNMI officials on the Sept. 16 scheduled hearing in Washington D.C.
The House Resources Committee, which deals with island issues, has called the oversight to update the panel on the labor and immigration reforms being undertaken by the Commonwealth government as well as the federal assistance to enforcement of U.S. laws here.