Hold IPI ‘completely responsible’ for the humanitarian crisis


Commonwealth Casino Commission board chair Edward C. Deleon Guerrero, center, presides over their monthly board meeting at the CCC conference room at Springs Plaza in Gualo Rai yesterday. (FERDIE DE LA TORRE)

Rep. Edwin K. Propst (D-Saipan) urged the Commonwealth Casino Commission yesterday to work with the Legislature to make it a top priority to resolve what is being described as a “humanitarian crisis” besetting the stranded foreign workers of Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC.

Speaking during the public comments portion of the CCC board meeting at the CCC conference room at Springs Plaza, Propst, who chairs the House Committee on Gaming, asked CCC to hold IPI “completely responsible” for the situation of the stranded guest workers, with whom he and other lawmakers have met and had extensive conversations with.

He said the workers want to go home, but they’re reluctant because they haven’t been paid what they are owed.

“This is heartbreaking. And look no further than previous employees of IPI who left in good faith last September and October, who believed that they would be paid, that the money would be wired,” Propst said. He said he met with them before they left, they talked about it, and stayed in contact. What Propst has learned, though, is that not one of them has gotten paid yet.

“So these current workers who want to go home realize that, if they leave, they won’t receive a penny. That’s criminal. It’s inhumane,” he said.

The lawmaker said these are not slaves as they are workers who provided the work, and were promised fair wages, and they deserve it.

Propst reiterated that the Turkish workers that they met a couple of days ago have work visas that are expiring on Jan. 30. He said the Turkish workers are extremely worried because if they are going to overstay and be deemed illegal, their chances of returning to any U.S. jurisdiction would become extremely difficult.

“Some of them are eating one meal a day just to…survive. We’re better than this,” said Propst, adding that the most beautiful thing that they are seeing right now is the community’s outpouring of support for these workers.

“Unlike us as residents here, they don’t have family that they can just move to—mom and dad or cousins or aunties and uncles. So they rely on the goodness, the love of this community,” he said.

Ultimately, Propst said, the responsibility belongs to IPI. He said the fact that these workers have had no electricity and their water supply had been shut off is inhumane. “We cannot allow this in our Commonwealth. This is putting a stain on our reputation as being a loving and caring, compassionate people. I will not stand for it,” he said.

Propst said IPI should take care of these workers, pay them what they are owed, and allow them to return to their homes to their loved ones. “Nothing is more important at this point. Because…we are the caretakers. And this is a crisis that we need to address as soon as possible,” he said.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at
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