When you get stuck along Beach Road, better take the Middle Road. This is a website for those who choose to tread Saipan's off the beaten path. * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * +

Apr 30, 2008

A Case of She Said, She Said

Deputy Secretary of Labor Cinta Kaipat has blasted Rep. Tina Sablan's bill to grant enhanced status under CNMI law to long-term guest workers. Here is one of many criticisms that Kaipat leveled against the bill, as reported in the Saipan Tribune:

“This bill is lopsided special interest pleading in favor of the foreign workers. The drafter of the bill has no interest in the plight of Commonwealth citizens who are out of work,” [Kaipat] said. Kaipat said a move to bring 20,000 aliens into a new “status” in the CNMI would cause a serious adverse reaction in Washington D.C. “This very large number would be a deliberate slap in the face to the authors of the federalization bill which rejected this very provision (status for persons who had been in the Commonwealth for five years) and instead used provisions that seek to deport all these people over the next five years. It might even invite even more punitive legislation in the next Congress,” Kaipat said.

Tina Sablan responded, as reported in the Marianas Variety:

“It is incorrect to suggest that the proposed resident foreign national program would result in a significant population increase,” [Sablan] said. “Current CNMI law allows foreign national workers who meet certain income requirements to bring in their immediate relatives; these same requirements would apply to resident foreign nationals who apply for resident foreign national status.”

She added, “As an attorney, former legislator, and current deputy secretary of Labor, Ms. Kaipat should know that her criticisms are legally insupportable.”

Since the name of our blog is Saipan MIDDLE Road, we have no strong opinions around here. We therefore would like to hear what you think of all of this.

News Flash: House Passes Federalization and Delegate Bill...

...by a vote of 291 to 117. Unless President Bush vetos it (not likely), the bill will become law within 10 days.
House Clears Final Hurdle for CNMI Immigration Bill

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives today took the final legislative step needed by the Congress to approve legislation to extend U.S. immigration laws to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and to authorize a CNMI non-voting Delegate to the House of Representatives. The legislation, which passed by a vote of 291-117, will now be sent to the White House to be signed into law.

“For too long, abuses took place in the CNMI, and for too long, remedial legislation was held hostage in this body. Let this legislation bring forth a new dawn, a start of a new era, and with a Delegate to this body, let the voices of the people of the CNMI be heard,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), a co-sponsor of the bill.

The Northern Mariana Islands Immigration, Security and Labor Act (ISLA) and the Northern Mariana Islands Delegate Act (H.R. 3079), which would extend U.S. immigration laws to the CNMI and establish a federally administered guest worker program on the island, was unanimously approved by the House on December 11, 2007. H.R. 3079 was later incorporated into a larger package of bills, the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (S. 2739), sponsored by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM); the legislation was approved by the U.S. Senate on April 10, 2008.

Delegate Donna M. Christensen (D-VI), Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs and chief sponsor of H.R. 3079, praised the passage of the legislation and said, “The Congress’ approval of ISLA will ensure that employers have the ability to fill jobs, continue vocational training to empower CNMI residents with skills needed to succeed in their economy, foster partnerships with neighboring Guam to diversify the region’s economy, maintain adequate protections for the non-resident guest worker community, and strategically secure the Marianas archipelago.”

“Extending federal immigration law to the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas closes the guest worker loophole under which so many were held in modern slavery. The Constitution’s guarantee of freedom must apply everywhere in the United States, no matter how remote,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr., (D-MI), a co-sponsor of H.R. 3079.

“The people of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands will have a greater voice in Congress with the authorization for the election and seating of a Delegate to represent them in the House of Representatives. I look forward to the day that the Delegate from the CNMI is sworn in to the House of Representatives. This is long overdue, and a very important component of this omnibus, consensus bill. I thank Chairwoman Donna Christensen and Chairman Nick Rahall for their leadership in advancing this comprehensive legislation and ensuring the Delegate bill was made part of the overall effort,” said Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-GU).

The Bush Administration has testified before both the House and Senate in support of the legislation. Chairwoman Christensen, expressing a strong concern that all people on the CNMI have an opportunity to voice their opinions on H.R. 3079, held the first Congressional hearing on the islands in August 2007.

Apr 28, 2008

Hollywood Theaters on Bid?

How true is it that an interested and prominent business group is willing to take over on managing the only movie house on the island? However, I heard there's a problem with this deal since the landlord is hiking the rental fee.

I was able to talk to some people and in their opinion or personal view, the local government should have stepped in to maintain this theater. Is that possible? Would it matter at all?

Let us know...

Apr 23, 2008

Resident Foreign National Entry Permit...

Now, what do you think of this news? A 5-year permit for a resident foreign nationals?

Here's the link to that story:

Saipan Tribune - Saipan lawmakers are expected to pre-file today a bill that will allow long-time foreign workers to stay for five-year periods in the Commonwealth whether they have jobs or not.

The unsigned bill, a copy of which was obtained by the Saipan Tribune last night, proposes to create a new immigration category of “resident foreign nationals.”

A foreign worker may apply for a resident foreign national entry permit if he or she has lived legally in the CNMI for at least five years and has met character requirements.

A resident foreign national entry permit is valid for five years and may be renewed.

The bill does not offer permanent residency, resident status, citizenship, or nationality to a resident foreign national.

However, people granted this new immigration status would be able to live and work at will in the Northern Marianas in the same manner as a permanent resident. They would receive employment preference over other foreign workers. They may operate a business, be self-employed, and employ other foreign workers.

Immediate family members of resident foreign national may enter and remain in the CNMI for the period of the permit of the resident foreign national.

Resident foreign nationals and any immediate family members admitted to the CNMI under this immigration category are, however, still considered aliens and may still be subjected to deportation.

Representatives Tina Sablan, Heinz Hofschneider, Edward Salas and Victor Hocog will cosponsor the bill.

Apr 21, 2008


Now we know why Greg Cruz of Taotao Tano is demanding for Governor Benigno R. Fitial's resignation.

He was seeking a government job "seriously" but because no job is available for him, he goes on calling for Fitial's resignation and will also ask lawmakers to impeach the governor. Forget about Goro's rants about the bad economy, high power rates, mismanagement of CUC, etc. It all boils down to not getting a job in the government.

Who would want to hire Greg Cruz?

And how many members of Taotano are there, really?

Here’s the Marianas Variety story:

TAOTAO Tano president Greg Cruz, who denies seeking a job from the administration, says he will ask lawmakers to impeach Gov. Benigno R. Fitial.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Cruz said it was the administration that “asked me to apply for a job because they wanted me to shut up.”
He said the administration “made the first move” by asking him to submit his resume.
But an e-mail from Cruz addressed to Press Secretary Charles P. Reyes stated: “Hey Charles, I seriously need a job. Review my resume and see if you guys can help me. Thanks, Greg.”
The message was dated March 13.
Cruz said he also submitted his resume to the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. because “they asked for it.”
“Of course I need a job,” he added.
But he said he never submitted an application letter to Reyes.
“We do not have the money to hire people and this is making many people very angry,” Reyes said. “They don’t understand that times have changed and we are in an entirely different situation — we have a governor willing to do what is necessary: cut costs. They need someone to blame for past financial indiscretions and the governor is the most convenient scapegoat.”
Cruz said Taotao Tano will submit a formal complaint for impeachment to the House of Representatives within the week.
He said they will ask for immediate action “for our people can no longer handle such misery, failure, disrespect and uncertainties in our homeland.”
He added, “Brushing off a serious concern and mocking the individuals who have tried courageously to garner signatures for the recall of the governor might have something to do with the fact that such petitions will have to go through the attorney general who is also an appointee of the administration.”
According to Cruz, the people of the commonwealth need “a strong leader with positive solutions who can guide the islands through this tough economic crisis, and not a leader who preys on the common ordinary suffering people. I call on the support of the entire people of the commonwealth — enough is enough.”

Apr 18, 2008

Savoring the final day

As expected, there was a long line of people at the Hollywood Theaters Thursday night in what could be the last day of operation of Saipan's only movie house.

It may reopen in a month but the hundreds of people who were there last night did not want to take chances. Nothing beats the feeling of watching a movie in a giant screen, along with many other strangers. Then there's pop corn and nachos. We will surely miss that experience.

If only the same number of people last night show up everyday at the seven-theater movie house, and if only power rates are not that expensive, then we won't have a problem losing Hollywood Theatres which opened on Sept. 8, 1999.

What a sad day, indeed, for Saipan.

If the power outage initially planned for Friday happens, Hollywood Theaters could have been a luxurious refuge the whole day.

Apr 14, 2008

Delegate candidates

Because the enactment into law of S. 2739 is now "inevitable," to use Wendy Doromal's word, the names of possible candidates for the CNMI's first non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives in November have started to circulate.

So far, the names we have heard are:

1. Pete A. Tenorio, the current CNMI resident representative to Washington, D.C.

2. Juan N. Babauta, former governor and former CNMI resident representative to Washington, D.C.

3. Greg "Kilili" Sablan, the current executive director of the Commonwealth Election Commission

4. Robert Torres, a former attorney general and now in private law practice

There may be more. Who can do the job best?

Apr 11, 2008

Breaking News: Senate Passes Federalization and CNMI Delegate Legislation

At 3:50PM Thursday Washington, D.C. time (5:50AM Friday CNMI time), the U.S. Senate passed S. 2739 by a vote of 91-4. Under Title VII of S. 2739, the Federal Government would assume authority over CNMI immigration.

The bill will now go back to the House for routine concurrence (the House already unanimously passed a virtually identical bill) and will likely be signed into law by President Bush in the next couple of weeks.

The Federal Government will take control of the CNMI's guest worker program in a year, although the start date can be delayed by six months. The special CNMI-only guest worker program is initially scheduled to be phased out by December 31, 2014. The phase-out period can, however, be extended indefinitely for periods of up to five years as long as a need can be demonstrated. The CNMI will also, however, always be able to admit foreign workers under the same visas that apply to the rest of the U.S., and during the transition period will not be subject to national caps on H-1B visas (for specialty or professional workers) or H-2B visas (for temporary nonagricultural workers). Contrary to misinformation that has been spread, S. 2739 would not phase out foreign workers in the CNMI; it would simply phase out, at the end of the (indefinitely extendable) transition period, the special CNMI-only guest worker program. Workers could still come to the CNMI under all U.S. visa categories, and there may even be special CNMI-only visa categories added in the future.

Within two years, the Secretary of the Interior (in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Governor of the CNMI) must provide Congress with a report that should include the Secretary of the Interior's recommendations on whether guest workers should be permitted to apply for long-term status under U.S. law.

S. 2739 would also provide for a special visa waiver program for Guam and the CNMI to promote tourism. Citizens of countries on the "visa waiver" list would be able to travel to Guam and/or the CNMI for business or pleasure for up to 45 days without having to go through the hassle of applying for a visa. Any country that has provided a "significant economic benefit" through tourism to the CNMI during the past year (including, Saipan Middle Road would suggest, China and Russia) would be on the visa waiver list unless the Secretary of Homeland Security determines that such country's inclusion on the list would be a threat to welfare, safety or security.

The law would also allow the CNMI and Guam Governors to petition the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of the Interior to add additional countries to the visa waiver list. There is already a pretty long list of countries whose citizens can travel to Guam without a visa. It is a pretty good bet that all of these countries would also be included in the new Guam-CNMI visa waiver program. The Governors can also petitition for consideration of additional special visas for Guam and the CNMI, such as for students or retirees.

The bill provides a good deal of flexibility to the Executive Branch to develop regulations and policies to implement the law. However, the Executive Branch is required to be guided by the following: "In recognition of the Commonwealth's unique economic circumstances, history, and geographical location, it is the intent of the Congress that the Commonwealth be given as much flexibility as possible in maintaining existing businesses and other revenue sources, and developing new economic opportunities."

Finally, S. 2739 will give CNMI voters the opportunity to elect a non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives in November of this year and every two years thereafter.

Here are a couple of questions to consider:

Will the passage of the federalization bill help those who have opposed federalization find common ground with those who have supported it, now that we all have the same interest in making sure that federalization is implemented in a way that supports growth and opportunity for the CNMI?

Will the CNMI administration's allies continue to explore the idea of longer-term residence for CNMI guest workers?

Apr 9, 2008

Well, what are your views on possible longer-term residence status for qualified foreign workers?

In a comment to the immediately preceding post, someone named "Anonymous" requested that we provide a forum for people to discuss their views on possible longer-term residence status for qualified foreign workers. Here at Saipan Middle Road, we know that we owe our phenomenal success to our willingness to respond to the wishes of you, our millions of loyal readers around the world. Your wish is our command.

To help guide our discussion, please see the questions raised in the following public service announcement:




Kagman Community Center, Wednesday, April 9, 2008 at 6:00 p.m. (Kagman, Capitol Hill, Papago, Santa Lourdes)

San Vicente Elementary School Cafeteria, Thursday, April 10, 2008 at 6:00 p.m. (DanDan, San Vicente, Kannat Tabla, Fina Sisu)

Garapan Elementary School Cafeteria, Wednesday, April 16, 2008 at 6:00 p.m. (San Roque, Tanapag, As Matuis, Puerto Rico, Garapan)

Koblerville Community Center, Thursday, April 17, 2008 at 6:00 p.m. (San Antonio, Koblerville, Chalan Piao, Chalan Kanoa, Oleai, Susupe)


How many years of successful work in the Commonwealth do you think should qualify a foreign worker for longer-term residence status?

What do you think of social responsibility requirements such as basic English skills and classes in CNMI history?

What kind of financial responsibility requirements do you think would be fair? What other factors do you think should be considered?

* * *

For those of you who just can't wait for the forum to which your village has been assigned, feel free to jump into the discussion now, right here on our pages. And while you're at it, feel free to discuss other, related issues as well:

Are you in favor of longer-term residence status for qualified guest workers?

Does it matter to you whether such status is granted by the CNMI Government or by the Federal Government?

What do you think are the motives of those participants in this discussion who have led the fight against granting long-term status to guest workers in the federalization bill? Whether or not you trust the motives of all of the participants, do you think that there's any harm in engaging in this process?

Does the prospect of longer-term residence status under CNMI law affect your views on federalization?

Do you think that this process has caused division in the community? Has any such division been avoidable? Do you think that guest workers and their advocates who support this dialogue and those who do not can set aside their differences for the good of the guest workers?

Why did they vote that Pinay chick off of American Idol? Is this all part of the same conspiracy?

Inquiring minds want to know what YOU think! Deluge us all with your wisdom and insight!

Apr 5, 2008

Where have all the workers gone?

Only 100-200 workers and other members of the community showed up Saturday at the prayer vigil in support of the US Senate-sponsored federalization bill and Rep. Tina Sablan’s draft bill granting long-term residency to foreign workers.

What a disappointment not only to the Human Dignity Movement, but also to the workers and supporters.

The organizers and speakers at the event – including Atty. Mark Hanson, Rep. Tina Sablan and representatives of the Filipino, Chinese, Bangladeshi communities – noted the result of disunity only four months since a historic crowd of 5,000-10,000 who marched for a better immigration status for long-term legal guest workers.

By now, Deanne Siemer and company, plus Dekada and their lawyer, may have been celebrating the fact that fewer showed up at the prayer vigil than the exploratory discussion on long-term residency held Wednesday night.

Suspicions, doubts and hatred directly and indirectly resulted in disunity among the workers who once stood “united” in their call for an improved immigration status.

Workers were urged to be cautious in choosing the direction to take – support the US Senate federalization bill which is expected to pass soon, support Tina Sablan’s draft bill for longer-term residency status, or support the exploratory discussions on the CNMI government granting of long-term residency status to long-time foreign workers.

Towards the end of the prayer vigil, organizers asked those in attendance to sign a petition calling for permanent immigration status in the CNMI.

The petition was addressed to the US Congress, the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and Nikolao Pula of the Interior.

Whatever happened to the Unity March?

Continental refuses to board Palau president

So what if you are the president of the Republic of Palau? We still need to frisk you for security reasons.

That’s exactly what Continental Micronesia did, when Palau President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. was about to leave Manila for Guam on Wednesday.

The incident happened on the same day that Remengesau lauded the “red carpet” reception accorded to him by the Philippine government, according to online reports.

Remengesau said it was unfortunate that the Philippine government’s efforts to extend protocols to him as president of a republic during his two-day visit were thwarted by Continental’s representative in Manila.

Continental told Philippine officials escorting the Palau president that he had to submit to the same security screening as all other passengers but the Philippine government officials disagreed, saying that doing so would be considered unprecedented and disrespectful treatment for a Head of State.

With no resolution in sight and with Remengesau declining to be frisked, the Palau president returned to his hotel, and boarded a “chartered flight” instead.

The story didn’t end there.

On Thursday, Remengesau said he wants to take the matter up with regional airlines serving Palau and the US Transportation Security Administration “so that we can ensure that respect and culturally-appropriate treatment is accorded Heads of State that will visit Palau.”

Again, the story didn’t end there.

The same Continental Micronesia flight that Remengesau had refused to take was sent steering back to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport barely an hour after it departed Manila due to a hoax bomb threat early Thursday morning, reports said.

“After more than three hours of inspection of the aircraft as well as the plane's 134 passengers and their baggage, airport officials declared the plane to be free from any explosive device.”

Does Continental also frisk CNMI Governor Fitial or Guam Governor Camacho or any heads of state?

Apr 2, 2008

A meeting to agree to 'meet' again on long-term resident status

Between 200 and 300 nonresident workers, as well as residents, showed up at the exploratory meeting on the long-term resident status public discussion initiative Wednesday night. A number of guest workers also remained outside Monte Carlo either because all seats were taken or for lack of $2 for the entrance fee (entirely for the use of the venue).

The question-and-answer didn’t start until 8:20 p.m. as the panelists consumed over an hour to introduce themselves, or praise the conduct of such an exploratory meeting, or explain why there’s such a meeting.

While many of the nonresident workers present were thankful that such a meeting was held and that they are being “heard” by “volunteer” lawyers, they also expressed frustration that the meeting dragged on for about four hours without agreeing on something other than having another exploratory meeting or having pocket meetings to discuss the viability of a long-term resident status for guest workers. The statements and answers given by the panelists were mostly a repetition of what was already said during the first two meetings.

All that most of the guest workers wanted was to have their leaders and Dekada lawyer Steve Woodruff tell Deanne Siemer, Maya Kara (and TaoTao Tano's Greg Cruz) that a grant of long-term residency should apply to those who have been here for five, seven or 10 years or more, and work from there. All they wanted was to have their leaders set the parameters and let the other party know where they stand; if only the guest worker leaders stood up and asked what the workers wanted, they’d have agreed on something albeit temporarily.

Many of the workers also said they were there just to hear what Siemer and Kara had to say; and they still prefer that their immigration status be addressed in the pending federalization bill. Local media representatives were there to cover the meeting. Rep. Tina Sablan, who is drafting a bill giving long-term residency status to certain guest workers, was also in the meeting.

Because the meeting dragged on for hours without really going anywhere, seats became empty, until this one young boy fell asleep (last photo).

Apr 1, 2008

Meeting to Explore Long-Term Resident Status Under CNMI Law

The following meeting announcement was placed as a comment to an earlier post, but we thought that it should be highlighted for those wishing to attend:


The following members of the Unity Movement organizers core group, Malou Barueco; Bonnie Sagana of the Dekada Movement; Conrad Ocampo; and Ernest Maicle of MOVER wish to inform the public that there will be a forum on “Long-Term Resident Status: Issues and Possibilities for Change Under CNMI Law” at the Monte Carlo (across from Hopwood Jr. High School) at 6:30 pm, Wednesday, April 2, 2008.All interested foreign national workers, local workers and business people, representatives of the business community, local citizen action group members, and members of the general public, of all races and nationalities, are welcome to attend and participate in the discussion.

Anticipated speakers are Dekada Movement counsel Stephen C. Woodruff; well-known attorney Deanne Siemer (best known to workers and long-term alien residents of the CNMI, often controversially, as someone actively involved in labor and immigration matters, PL 15-108, and the new labor regulations); Maya Kara (president of the CNMI Bar Association, former acting Attorney General, former governor’s legal counsel, former lieutenant governor’s legal counsel, and former House Legal Counsel); and Greg Cruz, president of TaoTao Tano. Both Ms. Siemer and Ms. Kara emphasize that they are involved and will speak only for themselves, in their personal capacities, and not as representatives of the government, clients, or any special interest group.

Other speakers may be added, and there will be extensive opportunity for questions, answers, and general discussion.

This forum is NOT about “federalization.” It is NOT about minimum wage. It is NOT about PL 15-108. It is specifically recognized that all parties have their own views and positions on these topics, and agreed that all are free to advocate their positions outside the forum, but that, within the context of the forum, these issues will be put to the side and the focus will be exclusively on the question of long-term alien resident status.

A minimum donation of two dollars ($2.00) per person will be required at the door to cover the costs of use of the Monte Carlo facilities. The two dollar donation also entitles each person to one beverage from the house. Additional beverages may be purchased at usual Monte Carlo prices.

This is the third meeting on the Long-Term Resident status public discussion initiative. The first preliminary, exploratory meeting, involving only a very small group, was held on Tuesday, March 11, 2008, in the conference room of Atty. Steve Woodruff. The second meeting of 30 to 40 persons was Saturday, March 22, 2008, at the China House restaurant.

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