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Saipan abuses impervious to outrage?

A 2006 article in MS Magazine exposed labor abuse in the US territories of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Have conditions changed since protectors Tom Delay and Jack Abramoff were dislodged? Consider that US Senator Daniel Kahikina delivered this condemnation of human exploitation in the Saipan in 1998.

The Commonwealth shares our American flag, but it does not share the American system of immigration.

There is something fundamentally wrong with a CNMI immigration system that issues permits to recruiters, who in turn promise well-paying American jobs to foreigners in exchange for a $6,000 recruitment fee. When the workers arrive in Saipan, they find their recruiter has vanished and there are no jobs in sight. Hundreds of these destitute workers roam the streets of Saipan with little or no chance of employment and no hope of returning to their homeland.

The State Department has confirmed that the government of China is an active participant in the CNMI immigration system. There is something fundamentally wrong with an immigration system that allows the government of China to prohibit Chinese workers from exercising political or religious freedom while employed in United States.

Something is fundamentally wrong with a CNMI immigration system that issues entry permits for 12- and 13-year-old girls from the Philippines and other Asian nations, and allows their employers to use them for live sex shows and prostitution.

Finally, something is fundamentally wrong when a Chinese construction worker asks if he can sell one of his kidneys for enough money to return to China and escape the deplorable working conditions in the Commonwealth and the immigration system that brought him there.

There are voices in the CNMI telling us that the cases of worker abuse we keep hearing about are isolated examples, that the system is improving, and that worker abuse is a thing of the past. These are the same voices that reap the economic benefits of a system of indentured labor that enslaves thousands of foreign workers — a system described in a bi-partisan study as “an unsustainable economic, social and political system that is antithetical to most American values.”

There is overwhelming evidence that abuse in the CNMI occurs on a grand scale and the problems are far from isolated.

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