Congressman Faleomavaega Eni today expresses his serious concerns over H.R. 3079 which would authorize certain provisions of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Act to apply to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands ((CNMI). Also included in the same legislation is a provision to allow for a non-voting Delegate from the CNMI to be represented in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In a Congressional Field Hearing on August 15, 2007, in Saipan, CNMI, which the Congressman also attended, Faleomavaega testified and raised serious questions, citing the lack of accurate data and questionable assessments provided by the Department of Interior.
“Senator Daniel Akaka has requested the Government Accountability Office (GAO) which is the investigative arm of Congress, to look into this matter in detail, and to provide Congress with an updated and more accurate report upon which Congress could rely upon. What surfaced at this hearing were certain conclusions by the Department of Interior that appeared to have been based on misleading statistics, outdated and overstated data as facts,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“What is troubling about Interior’s contention is not that it is so wrong, but that Interior feels compelled to present such questionable data to Congress in order to persuade Members to enact legislation before they have an objective report of the relevant facts from the GAO,” Faleomavaega stated.
“Testimonies by Governor R. Fitial of CNMI and other CNMI government officials reflect allegations by Interior that “human trafficking remains far more prevalent in the CNMI than it is in the rest of the U.S.,” were seriously misrepresented, and that Interior’s concerns about CNMI’s administration of its refugee protection program were similarly overstated. I find it hard to accept these questionable facts and figures as a basis to support any legislation before Congress without verifying them first through an official report from the GAO,” the Congressman stressed.
“I also made it clear at the hearing that to federalize a very “unique” immigration system for CNMI is to open a backdoor passage for foreigners and long-term over-stayers to become permanent resident aliens to enter the United States. I emphasized this scenario as a magnet to get entry into the U.S. for immigrant workers, and it would result in another entry system for aliens to legally enter the U.S., but will further cripple CNMI’s efforts to get guest-workers to enhance its own private sector development of its economy,” Faleomavaega added.
“Under the proposed legislation, a new section is added to extend the applicability of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) over a ten-year period which the Secretary of Homeland Security, in collaboration with the Secretaries of Interior, State, Labor, and the Attorney General will establish, administer and enforce a program regulating immigration to the CNMI. I find this proposal as a new layer of five bureaucracies from the five separate departments to administer and regulate a new national immigration system that is not even in place. I know with all the issues already faced by these federal departments, it would be difficult to add new responsibilities to their already loaded functions,” Faleomavaega reasoned.
“And then there is the provision for a non-voting delegate for the CNMI attached to the bill. I firmly believe that bill should be a bill on its own, and I believe there is enough bipartisanship support that it is not necessary to tack it on to this immigration bill,” the Congressman continued. “The CNMI has been part of the U.S. by association for the past 31 years, and they too have sons and daughters in the U.S. military, fighting and dying in Iraq. I feel it is high time for the CNMI to have a non-voting Representative in Congress, and it should not be tied to this bill,” Faleomavaega concluded.