The time has come for us to address the mounting problems that have been choking our economy before things get worse.
As a Commonwealth, we’ve experienced the ups and downs of our economy, starting with the arrival of Japanese investors and tourists as well as the garment industry. But they’re history. We then experienced the investment and tourism boom from China, which currently enjoys a visa waiver program. However, with Trump’s ongoing economic war, China may force us to look elsewhere for tourists and investors.
It’s bad enough that China has already warned its citizens to not travel to the U.S. as a safety precaution. Add the expensive headaches with major ongoing projects (that hotel next to PIC and IPI’s hotel, etc.), which remain unfinished as well as those still in the planning stages and we may just lose the China market also. Should that happen, who shall replace China? Vietnam? Taiwan? The Philippines? Get real.
Whatever, the possibility of our economy experiencing another hiccup remains and, should it slide out of control because our nonresidents (investors, tourists, workers and their families) leave, economic revival for the Marianas may require a miracle but only after many suffer repossessions and foreclosures on their homes and properties.
So here are some of the key points of contention.
The one thing common to all of our investors, our tourists, and nonresident workers is immigration. The U.S. controls our immigration, which forces us (the employers who actually foot the bill) to remit millions in application fees to the federal government, limits who can come and how long they can stay, and enforces stringent policies and controls over the entire process that apparently were designed to choke our economy and us into submission.
Perhaps the “national security interests of the United States”—as repeated over and over in the 902 report sent to Congress—hides the key and the explanation. The questions remain, what about us? What about our economy? Our future? National security interests? Do you know how physically isolated and remote we are?
All of our issues related to the control of immigration in and out of the Marianas insinuate an escalation of federal policies with intended consequences. Essentially choke the CNMI into submission so that we surrender to the demands of the U.S. and its military.
Given the complaints of the Japanese against the U.S. bases in Okinawa, the loss of Subic Bay and Clark Air Force Base as well as the occasional warming of relations between the two Koreas, the U.S. front line of defense seems to have been redrawn and, unfortunately for us, has placed us in the line of fire.
Russia’s President Putin has publicly stated that Russia will develop new weapons systems to target US “territories.” Want more? Go to www.newsy.org and read their article on “Countries North Korea Can Currently Hit With Their Missiles.” This should open your eyes and, hopefully, your minds as well.
Courses of action are up for grabs but they require zero rhetoric and 100% action. First, we have the option under Section 902 of our Covenant and our delegate to Washington to negotiate with the United States. For starters, our relationship with the U.S. is but a political partnership under the sovereignty of the U.S. This term “sovereignty” is a little dated and has been abused since time eternal to the advantage of superior governments hellbent on exercising “colonialism.” But as a self-governing entity, we retain our sovereignty, as do the states.
Bottom line, we need mutual respect with our political partner, we need openness, we need reciprocity, and we need greater autonomy from the U.S. For reminders, a quote from the Covenant under the case of Sablan vs Inos 3 N.M.I. 418 (1993): “The people of the NMI entered into the Covenant to become a self-governing commonwealth in political union with and under the sovereignty of the U.S.; they did not enter into the Covenant to become a territory or possession of the U.S., as those terms are used in the U.S. Constitution.”
So, questions remain. Why the directed application of federal policies and laws? They inserted Title 7 into U.S. Public Law 110-229, the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008, to take our immigration control because we had “labor” problems and now essentially controls our labor with the applied requirements for CW applications. All costly, time-consuming, a major migraine for all employers and, unfortunately for the CW workers and their families, inhumane.
So, what do we do?
Efforts to assess our political status will only determine which option made available will be chosen by the public. It will not address the core issues unless we change to independence or something similar to the FSM.
At the end of the day, it’s the control of our immigration (and labor) that will determine our success or failure as a commonwealth. Perhaps a failure will lead the public to massive self-checks and can potentially change our political status, not to mention all of our lives.
The government we chose was one of the people, by the people, and for the people. Those elected into office need to assess their actions or lack thereof, in fighting for our economy. Our economy, which can either thrive or fail. Should they fail, it is we, the people who shall pay the ultimate price for generations to come.
Noel S. Reyes
Kannat Tabla, Saipan