Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sour Grapes for Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

Welcome USS Columbus and Ingraham
Last week we welcomed the USS Curts to our fair shores and this week it is the US Navy fast attack Submarine USS Columbus SSN 776 and the Frigate USS Ingraham FFG61 that are stopping by for a few days rest and recreation for their hard working Officers and Crews. US military personnel like to come here to enjoy our beautiful weather, fine beaches, great food, friendly people, historic sights and many fun things to see and do. Plus it is a safe place to take liberty and it is a very ‘military friendly’ place to spend some quality time ashore.

Once again we should thank the crew of the USNS Safeguard for working to remove those impediments in our shipping channel, which were keeping large deep draft ships from entering our port. Now that the channel is clear, many more US Navy and other large ships will be calling on Saipan for much deserved liberty calls.

We welcome you all to Saipan and hope you enjoy your stay in the enchanting CNMI!!
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Human Lottery
There was a Reuters article in the paper some days ago relating the story of how within hours of the opening of the application period for workers H visas, the US Immigration Department was “flooded” with more than 3 times the number of applicants for the available slots to be filled.

Manufacturing associations in the US point out that the system currently in place is woefully inadequate to keep the US competitive with the rest of the world because it allows too few skilled foreign workers to he hired. The US system allows for only 65,000 worker slots in a country of 300 million people and millions of private businesses. They actually hold a random drawing, a lottery, to choose who will have a job and who will not be allowed in.

This has been a problem in the US for a long while and appears to have no solution in sight even though it is in their best interest to correct it. The political will to change the system is just not there. Congressmen fear for their reelection hopes if they allow more foreign workers to come into the country.

It makes me wonder just how receptive this same group of US politicians and bureaucratic agency staffers will be to carefully balancing our labor needs here in the CNMI if they take over the system. According to some sources we need about 20,000 workers here, many skilled, many not. Do you think the politicians 10,000 miles away and far out of sight will really care how we fare out here? Do you think that any 3 or 4 of the 91 Senators that just voted to have the US system take over out here could even find Saipan on a map, much less be bothered to see that Immigration regulations to be drafted by the Homeland Security folks will really address our needs? When they don’t care enough to solve the same problem in their own backyard do you think they will go out of their way to see to it that the problem is solved here in the CNMI 10,000 miles over the lonely horizon? I doubt it seriously.

I would not want to be a foreign national guest worker under contract here if the crazed Senate committee staffer (Stayman) and two obsessed US Congresspersons (Miller and Pelosi) finally get their way and the CNMI’s labor and immigration laws are superceded by the uncaring cadre over in Washington DC. It looks to me like most will be going back to their home countries whether they want to or not. With about 19,000 guest workers remaining here and 15 or 20 thousand already gone back home that means that once the US system is put into place some 3,800 workers will have to leave the CNMI each year in order to reach the goal of zero workers remaining that US immigration wants to achieve 5 years after they take over. Will you be one of the ones ‘chosen’ to leave next year? Will they do it by ‘lottery’? Will you draw or be issued a number and have your fate determined by blind luck the way they do it in the US right now? Homeland Security and US Immigration will have to come up with some way of removing all those workers, what is your best guess about how they will do it?

Maybe we don’t really need 20,000 contract workers here, I can’t say one way or another. It appears we are about to find out as they begin to be sent home by the thousands by the US Immigration system they themselves have marched in ‘unity’ to see put into place. If that is not ironic, I don’t know what is.
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Veterans Clinic on Saipan?
A friend of mine who, like me, is a veteran of the US Military has suggested something that would be of great help to all military veterans and other military personnel here. He learned that by registering ourselves, one and all, with the VA Office up on Capital Hill we might reach that critical tipping point of having sufficient numbers of potential users to have a Veterans medical clinic be installed right here in the CNMI. That would remove some pressure from CHC and Vets would not have to travel to Guam for simple check ups and other procedures.

Ruth Coleman, our Military and Veterans Affairs Office Director thinks there may be as many as 1000 US Military veterans here on the island. No one knows for sure because many, like me, have not registered themselves as resident veterans.

Ruth will welcome the opportunity to help you register with the VA and with the local M&VAO. I understand it is a simple procedure and one that does not require a lot of time. Veterans need to drag out a copy of that DD214 and bring it along to the Saipan office up on the Hill in building number 1362 on Anatahan Drive, phone 664-2650.

Please note that Memorial Day is just around the corner and there is a meeting each Tuesday Morning at 9AM at the M&VA office to organized and prepare for the events that will take place on that important Holiday. If you have some time on your hands and can be of help please volunteer. Because of government cut backs, Ruth has many responsibilities and no one on staff to assist her. Please contact her as above. Any assistance will be gratefully accepted.

One last scheduling note: on Thursday April 24th at 1PM representatives from the Guam Vet Center will arrive on island to provide private counseling for any and all combat veterans and their spouses. These sessions will be held at the Army Reserve Center in Puerto Rico and are, of course, free of charge.
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Instead of a Quote of the Week this week, I will give you a reminder instead: The 4th Annual Mahi Mahi Fishing Derby will be held this weekend. Sign up to participate or just come out to enjoy the daily weigh ins and the family style gathering that takes place. Registration is Friday evening at Smiling Cove Marina. The Derby is on Saturday, all day. Bring beer and a chair. You might get to taste some fresh Mahi sashimi.


SteeleOnSaipan said...

Hey Bruce, the last line in your bit about contract workers says it all; "It appears we are about to find out as they begin to be sent home by the thousands by the US Immigration system they themselves have marched in ‘unity’ to see put into place. If that is not ironic, I don’t know what is."

My family had brunch at the Hyatt last Sunday and I overheard Statesiders who've resided here for a long time talking about throwing a Federalization party and even heard some congratulate contract-worker waitstaff. One of them has about fifty recent letters-to-the-editor under his belt. This boggled my mind, though no one knows for sure what's coming, I see it the same as you, that most contract-employees are not going to be petitioned by their employers for a $2000+ visa for their continued employment. A company will put in a lot more effort to find a qualified local-hire and move on.

Just as curious to me is the vocal, indigenous detractors of the new Federal law. This new law, if applied the same here as on Guam, will open up numerous private-sector job opportunities for locals, once companies realize that renewal of contract employees will cost a lot more and require a lot more work. I sympathize with the "self-determination" argument but let's face it, the current immigration system sucks and unquestionably contributes to lack of private-sector jobs for locals and forces the gov't to be an employment agency. If you are all for thousands of Asians moving in, running illegal and/or unlicensed businesses, trashing the island and making coin while not paying taxes or employing any locals, well then I guess the current system is for you.

The story about the FBI raid of the pirate-video store was amusing. No mention of who the owner is. Of more interest, I'd like to know who the local partner or "go-to guy" is, as well as the 20% local employees who supposedly work there. Then we'd be getting to the bottom of who really benefits locally from this dysfunctional immigration system.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

There are other video stores on island doing the same thing, Randy...I wonder if they too are being watched.

Until I read the story, I didn't realize that "Juno" was not realeased yet...I saw it rented out to someone back in March.

The only place we part company, on the Immig issue Randy is in your belief that the US Fed Immigration will do any better...remember, these are the people who bring you 15 MILLION (or maybe it's 30 million they don't rightly know) illegals running all over their own 'homeland' with not a clue (or the will , as to haow to stop it. All of a sudden they will arrive here and have their act completely together? Pardon my cynicism, but I'm just not biting on that one.

Jeff said...

The people here are zero miles away and haven't a clue at all, so 0 or 10,000 makes not a lick of difference. It's a good soundbite though.

Bruce, I've seen you make that illegals in the states argument, and I find it to be an awful one. There's a thousand plus mile border with a third world economy. Of course some are going to sneak in. We wink as they work jobs Americans won't work. America also has a viable private sector. We don't over here. That's a day and night difference.

While you're right in how nuts it is for celebrations for contract workers, the funeral atmosphere from broke locals about something clearly helpful to them is just as silly. The local government has screwed them over for years.

KAP said...

More classic 'be careful what you wish for'

It was broken, I'm just not sure the fix is any better. BTW, what is the 'prevailing wage' for a construction worker?

And I've never understood why so many storefront businesses are allowed to open. That's not investment and they don't hire locally.

Oh, I expect the same abuses, or at least attempts at them. Read the PDN or stateside papers. It's the same employers; hopefully more will get caught.