Protest held vs illegal workers


A protest was held Monday afternoon at the San Jose and Beach Road intersection to call attention to what they term as illegal workers in the CNMI. (Bea Cabrera)

A number of protesters ranging from teens to adults gathered at the San Jose intersection along Beach Road last Monday to complain about illegal workers that they say are affecting the employment chances of U.S.-eligible workers.

Speaking for the group is CNMI Horizon president Fel Lieto Kalen, who accused the Chinese business community in the CNMI of rampant illegal business and employment practices.

“We are putting up the signs to wake up our community and, especially our leaders, because we have a lot of locals who are unemployed while there’s a lot of illegal Chinese workers holding jobs,” he said.

“I know this because I have first-hand experience, because I have seen a lot. I’ve talked to these people and have been in their barracks. They are here and illegally working,” he added.

A report by the Department of Commerce and its Central Statistics Division said that, based on a 2016 household expenditure survey, the estimated number of U.S. citizens and green-card holders defined as unemployed represents about 7.5 percent of the current labor force, which includes workers with CW-1 visas. This 7.5 percent is equal to about 1,800 unemployed U.S. citizens.

“We have competition and this competition should not have been here in the first place because they are here illegally. Some of them are not tourists and some of them don’t have CWs and they are working,” Kalen said.

“That’s not good and we have a lot of unemployed locals here. Hire the locals first because our percentage of employed locals is very low. We want them [businesses] to come here and as per the law, they are required to hire locals too,” he added.

Kalen said he has spoken to federal and local authorities and was told that the illegal workers cannot be detected or apprehended unless they commit a crime.

“What really [bothers me] is that authorities have told me that they know of the presence and activities of these illegal workers but they cannot come in and arrest [them] unless they commit a crime,” he said.

“…they are already committing a crime by working illegally [here], but again [I was] told that unless they are arrested for a crime, that is the only time that authorities can run after them,” he added.

Kalen said their next stop is the Legislature.

“We plan to approach both CNMI and federal authorities. …The CNMI needs legal business investors that follow CNMI laws.”

Bea Cabrera | Correspondent
Bea Cabrera, who holds a law degree, also has a bachelor's degree in mass communications. She has been exposed to multiple aspects of mass media, doing sales, marketing, copywriting, and photography.

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