GROUP SEEKS SAIPAN HAVEN FOR ABUSED GIRLS

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By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Dec. 12) – A humanitarian group called the United States International Mission is asking the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to provide refuge to Vietnamese girls — some as young as eight years old — who were held against their will in various brothels in Cambodia.

The group’s Saipan president, David Sablan, said some of the girls were sold by their poor families at the going rate of $500 to $2,000 each.

"The girls were deceived. Human traffickers — this is how they work. They come to a poor region. They look around and they see poor children. (They tell the parents), ‘Why don’t we take your children and we will educate them in Cambodia. Get them a job or whatever.’ They make all kinds promises. They buy the children and then sell them to brothels," Sabaln said.

Once the girls are in the custody of human traffickers they turn them into sex slaves, he added. "They say to the girls, ‘You have to pay back what I have just loaned your family for bringing you here and therefore I want you to do this and sell your bodies.’ "

Some of the victims have been rescued and now the United States International Mission is looking to bring at least 30 of the girls to Saipan within the month.

Sablan said the local government will not have to spend anything for allowing the girls’ entry.

Steve Nutting, legal counsel of the United States International Mission on Saipan, said the nongovernment group is funded by benefactors in the U.S., mostly wealthy Vietnamese-Americans.

He said because the Northern Marianas has control over its immigration policies, it can allow the entry of the girls who will eventually move to the United States.

The plan

Sablan said the girls will be brought to Saipan within the month once the local government issues visitor entry permits, or VEPS.

Although some of the girls don’t have travel documents such as passports, they can be allowed to travel to Saipan with a United Nations-issued passport.

"When we rescue them, they sometimes do not have complete documentation. But the U.N. Charter states that everybody has the right to travel — even stateless people. We are categorizing these children as stateless children and therefore we’re making applications through the (U.N.) so that we can bring them here," said Sablan.

To allow the girls to stay on Saipan, the Attorney General’s Office has proposed a new immigration rule that creates a "Safe Haven Permit."

The safe haven rule will also allow international safe haven organizations such as the United States International Mission to operate on Saipan.

The public can comment on the proposed rule until Dec. 25.

Deputy Attorney General Clyde Lemons Jr. will review the public comments, particularly those that merit consideration in the modification of the Safe Haven Entry Permit proposal.

If the original version needs to be modified, Assistant Attorney General Jeff Moots said it must be republished in the Commonwealth Registry, and its application date won’t happen until January.

Opposition

But Sen. Pete P. Reyes said there are issues that must first be addressed before the safe haven permit can be adopted.

Reyes, Ind.-Saipan, said he is not opposed to the idea of helping white slavery victims, but added that he is troubled by several things about the proposal.

"First is the sneaky way in which this is happening. Shamefully, this plan has been concealed from the people as well as from their elected legislators…. In fact, as of Friday, the proposed regulations were still not posted on the AG’s Web site, leaving us to wonder when the governor was going to inform those whom he was elected to represent that he would be entering into this poorly planned mess," said Reyes in a letter to the local media.

Attorney General Pamela Brown, who signed the original proposal, said: "If this was something that I wanted to rush into, I have full authority to adopt this as an emergency regulation and there would be a 120-day period that nobody could do anything about."

However, a lawyer, who declined to be identified, said there is no basis to adopt the proposal as an emergency regulation since it does not involve an issue that poses an imminent danger to the people of the commonwealth.

Reyes said Brown only slowed down on her plan after one of the government attorneys threatened to prosecute her.

"Does anyone really believe her claims that she stopped her involvement with this scheme because she didn’t want to hassle with me? If you believe that, you’ll believe anything. My investigation has revealed that her own staff threatened to prosecute her if she didn’t stop her involvement," he said.

"Find out for yourself: file an open records request for the memo which highlights the laws and attorney ethics rules that were likely violated or would be violated if she had continued with her scheme," he added.

If the plan to bring the victims to Saipan goes ahead, the children will be accompanied by actress Darryl Hannah, Brown said.

Hannah, a human rights activist, is documenting the victims’ journey to Saipan.

December 12, 205

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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