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By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, June 19) – Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Governor Benigno Fitial says he will go to Washington, D.C. and testify against what he describes as "genocidal" legislation to federalize the local minimum wage and immigration laws.

Congressman George Miller, D-Ca., along with Hilda Solis, D-Ca., and John Spratt, D-S.C., introduced H.R. 5550, or the United States-Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Human Dignity Act, on June 7.

Fitial, a former executive of the island’s largest garment manufacturer, said passing the bill is tantamount to "genocide."

"We…oppose anything that is detrimental to the livelihood of the residents of the commonwealth," he said. "I think if they don’t listen to me they’d better come up with a solution because I think it would be genocide for the federal government to impose something that will devastate the livelihood of the people of the commonwealth," he added.

[PIR editor’s note: The issue of wage increases in CNMI has been reawakened after a few years on the back burner. In a Marianas Variety article last month, Governor Fitial maintained that wage increases would hurt the economy.]

Fitial said Miller’s bill is "political."

"This is an election year and someone is running for re-election and he wants his labor union to vote for him again," the governor said. "I’m going to vehemently oppose such a move. I’m going to tell him here’s the cost and effect. You apply that minimum wage, you apply also the effect."

A lawyer, Miller has been representing California’s 7th district in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1975 and is expected to be easily re-elected once again in November.

Miller, in a media release, said the conviction of lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the resignation of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Tx., could finally lead to improvements in the Commonwealth’s labor and immigration system.

"For years, DeLay and Abramoff used their power and influence and corrupt practices to defend the indefensible. The House of Representatives failed to stop extraordinary abuses of poor women guest workers in the textile and tourism industries in the Marianas despite overwhelming evidence documented by the federal government, Congress, the news media and other sources," Miller said.

Fitial considers Abramoff and DeLay his "close friends."

June 20, 2006

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