AMERICAN SAMOA, NORTHERN MARIANAS NOW BOTH FACE U.S. IMMIGRATION AND MINIMUM

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WAGE "TAKEOVER"

By Jojo Dass

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (July 26, 2001 - Marianas Variety/PINA Nius Online)---United States Congressman George Miller wants to extend American federal immigration and minimum wage laws not only to the Northern Marianas but to American Samoa as well.

It is part of his campaign on conditions of work for garment workers in the American Pacific Islands, where factories manufacture under the "Made in U.S.A." label using mainly Asian workers.

Miller's recently introduced legislation - The American Territories Human Dignity Act - seeks to "preserve the integrity of the Made in U.S.A. label."

He wants this done by requiring that this benefit "only be allowed for garments made in compliance with U.S. immigration and labor" laws.

"The practice of importing and exploiting foreign workers has recently spread to American Samoa," said Miller, a Californian Democrat.

A ranking Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives committee that has oversight jurisdiction for America's islands, Miller has been introducing "federal takeover" legislation since 1996.

The committee's Republican leadership, however, has so far successfully blocked each bill.

His latest comments come in a Dear Colleague letter to fellow members of the American Congress. It was co-signed by Representative John Spratt of South Carolina.

Miller cited the case of the 251 female Vietnamese and eight Chinese contract workers who were stranded in American Samoa after problems at the garment company that hired them.

Said Miller, who has also been one of the most vocal critics of the Northern Marianas labor and immigration practices: "Many of these women faced verbal, physical and sexual abuse, including a severe beating."

He said the America Samoan government should be blamed for the incident for allegedly waiving its own rules requiring companies to purchase a "return flight bond," which would have covered the workers’ repatriation expenses.

"When the company eventually did claim bankruptcy, it was in part the unfortunate decision of the Samoan government that left these workers stranded without a way to get home," Miller said.

The territory had similar unfortunate experiences with three other garment factories, he said.

"Congress cannot stand by and allow these abuses to continue on American soil," Miller said.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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