U.S. citizen children who were “exiled” to foreign countries like the Philippines when their alien worker parents lost jobs and immigration status are slowly returning to the CNMI as adults and in fact are now exercising their right to vote.
Hanederia Viray, 20, is proud to be a voter for the first time on Saipan. She voted at the general elections yesterday at the Joeten-Kiyu Library in Susupe.
Viray was 3 months old when her Filipino parents “exiled” her to Bulacan province in the Philippines, when her mother returned to that country in 1993.
Viray’s father continued to work on Saipan but eventually joined her and her mother in the Philippines in 2010 when the company where he had been employed for many years shut down.
After Viray completed her bachelor’s degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management, her parents contacted a Saipan-based family friend, Ruby Acosta, who helped their daughter return to the islands. Viray arrived on Saipan on Aug. 29, 2014. Acosta met her at the airport and let her stay in her house.
Just last week, she started work as a cashier at Happy Market. Since she is new to the island where she was born and left 20 years ago, she is not familiar with this year’s election candidates and issues. Acosta was there at the election polling station to guide her when she cast her vote.
“I’m proud that I voted here,” she told Saipan Tribune shortly after she emerged from the polling station.
Viray observed that voting here is well-organized and fast. She recalled that when she first voted in the Philippines, it was so crowded that she went to the polling place at 4am but ended up voting at 3pm. Having dual citizenship, she could also vote in the Philippines.
Viray said that coming back 20 years later to the island where she was born gives mixed feelings.
“I was excited but at the same time scared because I don’t know the environment,” she said in Tagalog.
When asked if she will return to the polling station again in case there is a gubernatorial runoff, Viray looked at Acosta then agreed that she will cast her vote again.
Viray will be turning 21 this month. She is now preparing to petition her parents to join her here. She said her parents are excited to hopefully get a “green card” and return to the island, where they used to work for many years.
Viray’s story is similar to Jenie Lou Muria’s. Like Viray, Acosta also helped Muria’s parents, who are now in Batangas, Philippines, to take care of her on the island.
Muria, 21, is also an HRM graduate. She arrived on Saipan last August and is also staying in Acosta’s house. She immediately got a job as a front desk personnel at Saipan World Resort.
Muria is also a first time voter on Saipan. She is now working on a petition to get her parents.
Acosta said she is happy to help friends having their U.S. citizen children stay in her house.
Acosta worked for 20 years at PDI. After obtaining her green card in March this year when her 23-year-old child petitioned her, she got a job as an accountant at the Commonwealth Health Center.