E-Newsletter -- Friday, May 28, 2010

May 28, 2010



In this issue:

  • Open letter in response to the Interior Secretary’s Report and Recommendation to Congress on Immigration in the Northern Mariana Islands
  • Remote Teacher Corps legislation will help NMI attract and retain teachers
  • Rota student appointed to the U.S. Military Academy
  • Amendment to this year’s National Defense bill aimed at full-service PX for Saipan — Bill also increases military pay
  • Improving respect for people with disabilities
  • PDI’s Matsumura honored for his 25 Years of Dedicated Service
  • Committee action triples Safe Drinking Water funds for the NMI
  • $135,110 awarded for Tsunami readiness and response

An open letter in response to the Interior Secretary’s Report and Recommendation to Congress on Immigration in the Northern Mariana Islands:

Greetings!

Most of us found the report and recommendations to Congress that the U.S. Interior Secretary released on April 30 disappointing. The report offered five options for permitting alien workers who have lawfully resided in the Northern Mariana Islands for at least five years to apply for long-term status under the immigration laws of the United States. But the Secretary said nothing about the pros and cons of these options.

No wonder the report caused so much anger and uncertainty. Because what happens to the thousands of people, who we allowed to live in our islands under CNMI immigration law, will have a profound impact on the future of our economy, our government, and our families.

Many of you have written, or called, or spoken with me directly about your concerns. You are worried that the U.S. Congress will take immediate action on the Interior recommendations without consulting the people of the Northern Marianas.

The purpose of this letter is to explain clearly why that’s not going to happen.

First, Congress will not act quickly. Immigration is a very complex issue. In the Northern Marianas and all around our country, people are deeply divided on immigration policy. It’s unlikely Congress will take any action on immigration this year.

Second, you are represented in Congress now. When federal immigration law was extended to the Northern Marianas in 2008, no one represented us in Congress. As a result, the law has major flaws. But now we are represented here. And there is an unwritten understanding that if a law is going to affect just one congressional district, then the Congressman from that district should first agree.

Third, I am listening to you. I will not agree to any change in immigration law that affects only the Northern Marianas, until I have consulted fully with my constituents, and unless I am convinced the proposed change is in our best interest.

Fourth, the Interior recommendation is just a recommendation. The Executive Branch has lots of ideas about what Congress should do. But Congress has a mind of its own. Congress may never seriously consider any of the five options in the Interior report—certainly not the proposal for instant citizenship. But one thing is certain: eventually Congress will take up legislation to set a new national immigration policy. If the Northern Marianas is locked into that comprehensive immigration reform, then we are less likely to get a solution that fits our special needs.

That’s why it is so important that the people of Northern Marianas begin to decide what we want. We have time. But if we only use that time to say what we don’t want, we will lose our opportunity to get what we do want.

Like you, I too have ideas about what is important:

  • I know there are not enough local workers for our economy. But I also know that local workers are not getting jobs they are perfectly able to do. That has to stop. We need to get our own people working.
  • I know that if our population continues to shrink, businesses will continue to close, and more and more of our young people will be forced to leave these islands for better opportunities elsewhere. We need to maintain population to keep our economy healthy.
  • I know there are people in our islands—who are not guest workers—who are being forgotten in this discussion and whose status has to be addressed. These are people who were born here in the 1970s, have always lived here, and have no other home. These are people who were legal permanent residents under CNMI immigration law and have lived here since 1982. These groups should be allowed to remain.
  • I know, too, that our culture values family. And there are families in our community with a U.S. citizen and a foreign spouse that simply cannot afford thousands of dollars for attorneys and immigration fees to get long-term status for those spouses. We have to help those families stay together.

These are my personal views. As your Congressman, however, it is your views that matter. My job right now is to listen to all points of view—to consult with you and look for areas of agreement. This is your time to be heard.

We all knew that the change to federal immigration would be difficult and messy. When I came to Washington, as your Congressman, the law was already on the books. But I promised to deal with that reality and work hard to make the transition as “least difficult” as possible.

We have had some successes. Working together, we were successful at getting 180 extra days for the Department of Homeland Security to prepare for the transition. We used that time to convince Secretary Napolitano to allow Chinese and Russian tourists to continue to enter our islands without visas. The business community, workers, the Commonwealth Government, and your Congressional office have shown that with cooperation and hard work we can succeed for the benefit of all.

Let us continue in that spirit.

Respectfully yours,

GREGORIO KILILI CAMACHO SABLAN

My Remote Teacher Corps legislation will help the Northern Mariana Islands and other areas of the U.S. attract and retain teachers - This week I introduced H.R. 5399, creating a new national program to help remote areas of our country, including the NMI, hire teachers and keep them working. This Remote Teacher Corp offers bonuses, travel stipends, and other hiring incentives to overcome the difficulty we sometime have recruiting teachers from outside. Once hired these new teachers would be encouraged to stay by offering them new opportunities for continuing education and other means of professional development. These same opportunities would also be available for the teachers who are already working in the Northern Marianas, so they, too, can increase their skills without leaving their teaching posts here. The U.S. Secretary of Education would administer the program. Special priority will be placed on teachers with hard-to-find skills in fields like Special Education, math and science, and English as a Second Language. I am working now with the Committee on Education and Labor to incorporate my bill into the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which we hope to complete in this Congress.


Rota student appointed to the U.S. Military Academy - As a result of my amendment to last year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), more Northern Mariana Islands students are being admitted to the U.S. service academies. As previously reported, John Yoon won appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland; and in the last few days Denn Manglona of Rota was offered, and has accepted, an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. Prior to the enactment of the NDAA in October, 2009, the Northern Marianas could only have one student at an academy at any given time. Since we already have students at both Annapolis and West Point, neither Yoon nor Manglona would have been appointed this year, even though they are exemplary students. Both will now be able to begin their military education and career later this summer as members of the Class of 2014. Denn is the son of Senator Paul A. Manglona and Lydia M. Manglona. Denn ranks first in his class at Rota High School, where he is student council president and a member of the National Honor Society. He was a member of the Movie and Theatre clubs at Rota High and has participated in the National Forensics League and the Junior Statesmen of America program, spending a summer at Georgetown University. Manglona played basketball and volleyball for his school teams. He also has work experience, having served as an engineering intern under the mentorship of telecommunication engineers on Saipan. He is the kind of individual who will do himself, his family, and the Northern Marianas proud as a student at West Point and, upon graduation, as an officer in the U.S. Army. Congratulations, Denn! And, again, congratulations, John!



Amendment to this year’s National Defense bill aimed at full-service PX for Saipan — Bill also increases military pay - This year’s National Defense Authorization Act, H.R. 5136 passed the House this afternoon by a vote of 229 to 186. I support the bill, which contains a 1.9 percent salary increase for U.S. military personnel, a greater increase than the President requested, and other benefits for our troops and their families. H.R. 5136 also includes my amendment getting the Department of Defense to look at replacing the current troop store on Saipan with a full-service exchange store. Currently, there is only a small facility that many of the almost 4,000 military personnel, retirees and their families in the Northern Marianas consider inadequate and I agree: our service members and their families deserve better. This year’s NDAA also extends TRICARE coverage for dependent children of military personnel up to the age of 26, increases the maximum amount of hostile fire and imminent danger pay for the first time since 2004, increases the family separation allowance for our service members whose deployment or temporary duty requires them to live away from their families, and restores the basic allowance for housing payments for two active duty spouses when one or both are on sea duty. With increasing numbers of our own people in the military and with increasing military presence in the Mariana Islands, it is that much more important that we support appropriate levels of funding and make sure that our troops and their families have what they need.





Improving respect for people with disabilities - Those with family members who struggle with problem solving, decision-making, and communication because of a disability, understand how hurtful words can be. And hurtful terminology can sometimes make it even more difficult for those with intellectual disabilities to fit into our community. That’s why I’ve signed on as a co-sponsor to legislation that will replace the term “mental retardation” throughout the United States Code with the words “intellectual disability.” Mental retardation has become a hurtful term with negative and insulting connotations. I know this is a small change, and it may only be a technicality. But for families and friends of those who have to struggle with discrimination on top of their disabilities this change is an important step towards being treated with respect and compassion by the federal government.


PDI’s Matsumura honored for his 25 Years of Dedicated Service - I presented Mr. Yoichi Matsumura with a congressional certificate of commendation this week “in recognition of his 25 years of dedication, service and leadership to foster the growth, development and quality of the tourism industry in the Northern Mariana Islands.” Despite the economic decline in the Commonwealth, Mr. Matsumura and his company, Pacific Development Inc., have remained committed to making our islands competitive and attractive for tourists from Asia. Originally from Japan, Mr. Matsumura was recruited in 1984 to work in Saipan as a tour relations coordinator for PDI, a local travel company focused on bringing Japanese tourists to the NMI. As PDI grew over the years, Mr. Matsumura earned promotion to manager, assistant general manager, general manager, and in December 2007, to President of PDI. Matsumura-san has served as an elected member on the board of directors of the Marianas Visitors Authority since 2004. For his leadership in social and community events that promote tourism to the NMI, Matsumura-san has already won awards and recognition from the Northern Mariana Islands House of Representatives, Saipan Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.



Committee action triples Safe Drinking Water funds for the Northern Mariana Islands - The Assistance, Quality, and Affordability Act of 2010, or AQUA Act, (H.R. 5320) has been amended to triple drinking water infrastructure funds available for the NMI. The set-aside for American Samoa, Guam, the NMI and the US Virgin Islands was increased from .33 percent to 1 percent. The funds are distributed to the four areas by formula. The AQUA Act was introduced on May 18 by Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman and my office immediately began working with Delegate Donna Christensen of the Virgin Islands, who is a member of the Committee, to get the set-aside increase. Chairman Henry Waxman agreed and included the necessary provision in his manager’s amendment, which was approved by the Energy and Commerce Committee on May 26 by a vote of 45 to 1. The bill now heads to the House floor for approval.



$135,110 awarded for Tsunami readiness and response - The U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, has announced the award of $135,110 to the Northern Mariana Islands Emergency Management Office. The formula grant is part of the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Plan and National Weather Service Tsunami/Ready Program and will support the validation and modification of current tsunami evacuation maps, building of a stronger public outreach and education campaign, and improved tsunami warning and evacuation notification. Congratulations to EMO.



HIGHLIGHTS IN THE LEGISLATIVE PROGRAM

This Week


H.R. 1017 - Chiropractic Care Available to All Veterans Act (Rep. Filner - Veterans' Affairs)

H.Con.Res. 278 - Expressing the sense of Congress that a grateful Nation supports and salutes Sons and Daughters in Touch on its 20th Anniversary that is being held on Father's Day, 2010, at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, the District of Columbia (Rep. Halvorson - Veterans' Affairs)

H.Res. 1258 - Expressing support for designation of May 2010 as Mental Health Month (Rep. Napolitano - Energy and Commerce)

H.Res. 1382 - Expressing sympathy to the families of those killed by North Korea in the sinking of the Republic of Korea Ship Cheonan, and solidarity with the Republic of Korea in the aftermath of this tragic incident (Rep. Faleomavaega - Foreign Affairs)

H.R. 5145 - Assuring Quality Care for Veterans Act (Rep. McNerney - Veterans' Affairs)

H.Res. 1353 - Supporting the goals and ideals of Student Financial Aid Awareness Month to raise awareness of student financial aid (Rep. Bishop (NY) - Education and Labor)

H.Res. 1316 - Celebrating Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month (Rep. Honda - Oversight and Government Reform)

H.Res. 1385 - Recognizing and honoring the courage and sacrifice of the members of the Armed Forces and veterans (Rep. Skelton - Armed Services)

H.Res. 1347 - Honoring the workers who perished on the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, extending condolences to their families, and recognizing the valiant efforts of emergency response workers at the disaster site (Rep. Melancon - Oversight and Government Reform)

H.R. 5116 - America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (Rep. Gordon – Science and Technology)

H.R. 5136 - National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (Rep. Skelton – Armed Services)

Next Week

The House will be in recess for the Memorial Day District Work Period.