I want to give everyone a warning and ask a favor. One of the issues that we used to unseat Richard Pombo was his connection to the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI). It often elicited a shrug, as if to say who cares about what happens half-way around the world. Maybe, if you read all of this, you might understand that we should care and that the corruption has not gone away just because Jack Abramoff has had his career cut short.
This was triggered today by a story in the Denver Post concerning a Colorado Congressman named Bob Schaffer. Shaffer has long been a suporter of all of the corruption in the CNMI.
One of the key elements of the CNMI scheme was that, as a Commonwealth, they were allowed to have their own immigration policy. This allowed the Governor Benigno R. Fitial of the CNMI to set up a program whereby private contractors and companies could sign up foreign workers and import them into the CNMI to work in industry. Most of these were women from China and the Philippines. Many were allowe to work long hours in sweatshops making clothing for the US Market (goods manufactured in the CNMI were allowed to say Made in the USA) and the rest were forced into prostitution. This established a loophole whereby anyone who had been admitted to the CNMI could not travel freely to the US mainland.
NOTE: Governor Fitial was previously an executive with one of the major offending companies.
What the good Mr. Schaffer wants is to use the CNMI as a model for our own "guest worker" program. You know, like the bracero programs of the past. The abuses of that program were bad enough in the US. They are horrible in the CNMI.
Now, I am not asking anyone here to work against Mr. Schaffer. I do, however, want to get all of you to contact their Senators and make sure that the support getting Senate Bill 2739 on to the calendar and passed. It may happen today. If not, then we know that behind the scenes schemes are preventing this bill from comint to a vote. The Marianas Islands issues in this bill are only a small part, but it is a very important part.