PUBLISHED ILLEGAL ALIEN LIST HITS FAN IN CNMI

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By Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Feb. 1) – The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Department of Labor yesterday issued a list of 1,001 names of individuals whom it says "do not have legal immigration status allowing employment in the CNMI," but many of these individuals yesterday told Variety that their names were erroneously included.

The Fitial administration issued the list at a time when the U.S. Congress is considering the federalization of the CNMI’s labor and immigration policies.

A private lawyer warned that the "no hire list" may have violated privacy, due process of law, and other rights guaranteed by federal and CNMI law.

"There appears to be no statutory or regulatory authority for the publication of this list," said former Senate legal counsel Stephen C. Woodruff in a one-page statement. "Neither is there any information on how and from what sources the list was complied, or any indication of the reliability of the information."

Workers lined up at the Labor office in San Antonio yesterday to clarify and complain about what they described as an erroneous act of the government to include their names on the list of nonresidents who should not be employed in the CNMI.

The 1,001 names belong to individuals from 23 countries — including China, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Thailand, Korea and Japan.

There were also names of individuals listed as coming from Syrian Arab Republic, Pakistan, Mongolia, Myanmar, Guam, French Polynesia, Australia, Canada, India, Indonesia, Nepal, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Tonga, United Kingdom and Vietnam.

The notice, according to Woodruff, could also be construed as an attempt by Labor to compel or induce by improper means individuals to incriminate themselves.

"This is to alert affected members of the public to their legal rights. It is not legal advice," he said.

Some employers said they had already sent home some of the workers on the list, and have documents to prove this. "Immigration data should have recorded that right away. They have already left the CNMI," one of them said.

"Here is my valid entry permit. It has an expiration date of July 7, 2007. How come my name is included on the list of overstaying or illegal workers?" Epifanio Lumactod Jr., 52, said in an interview.

Another individual, George B. Raper, has a pending labor case and his name should, therefore, not be on the list.

Lumactod and Raper’s names were later deleted from the list by Labor’s Jeffrey Camacho after clarification.

They are only two of the many individuals who asked Labor to delete their names from the list after proving that they have valid work and entry permits to remain in the CNMI.

"Their list is not accurate and not updated," said Lumactod.

The surnames of some of those on the list also appear to be "residents" of the CNMI.

Rosa Ada-Hocog, administrator of Labor’s Administrative Hearing Office, yesterday said they have received lots of inquiries from workers and employers about the list but said that Labor will immediately remove names if it can be proven that they have legal status to work in the CNMI.

"There is no need to panic about this," said Ada-Hocog, adding that people should not construe this as a list of "outlaws" but for the department to determine how many in the CNMI are actually considered without legal immigration status to work here.

She said any person on the list who believes that his immigration status allows employment in the CNMI should report to Labor’s Enforcement Division no later than Feb. 5, 2007 with the necessary documentation.

Otherwise, further enforcement action — including deportation from the CNMI — will be imposed on persons on the list.

Employers who are also currently employing any of these workers on the list are also urged to provide Labor’s Enforcement Division no later than Feb. 5 with the employment information.

Serious concerns

Woodruff said the "no hire" list as published purports to affect substantial rights, among other serious concerns.

"The notice also threatens significant adverse consequences to the individuals named if they do not follow what the notice directs. The time period allowed for individuals on the list to take remedial action is unreasonably short — just four working days (or up to Feb. 5) at best," he said.

Woodruff said for those who are on the list but who actually have a legal status to work, the "no hire list" interferes with their contractual rights.

"It is not advisable for persons listed to ignore the published notice. Persons who ignore the notice do so at their own peril. Persons listed should comply with the instructions the Department of Labor gave in the notice although this may entail some risks. Contact an attorney, or contact the U.S. Department of the Interior Office of the Labor Ombudsman," said Woodruff, who also invited those on the "no hire" list to visit his law office.

Labor said individuals and employers who have questions and concerns about the list should contact Jeffrey Camacho of Labor’s Enforcement Section at 236-0965, or the Division of Administrative Hearing at 236-0956/57.

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