U.S. SENATE HEARING ON CNMI LABOR AND IMMIGRATION ISSUES

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HONOLULU, Hawaii (March 30, 1998 - PIDP/CPIS/Hulsen)---In Washington, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will begin hearings Tuesday concerning labor and immigration problems in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

On hand to discuss proposed legislation by Alaska Republican Senator and Committee Chairman Frank Murkowski, to remove the Commonwealth's authority over the minimum wage and immigration policies, will be the new CNMI Governor, Pedro P. Tenorio, and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt.

"It's going to be like facing the war crimes tribunal," Tenorio recently told the Pacific Daily News on Guam.

Alan Stayman, Director of the Washington-based Office of Insular Affairs in the Department of the Interior, says the present CNMI immigration system has "permitted the admission of approximately 40,000 contract alien workers, who outnumber the residents of the islands by about four to three."

In addition, he said, "Most of the contract workers are ill-paid --the U.S. minimum wage does not apply—and many of them are not paid at all."

Local control of immigration and the minimum wage, coupled with protection against U.S. tariff barriers, added Stayman, allows the transplanted Asian garment industry to use Asian textiles and accessories, and Asian workers, to produce $US 820 million worth of clothes each year that are shipped to the U.S. without duty or quotas.

The Washington administration wants the U.S. Congress to close the CNMI loopholes.

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