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By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Dec. 17) – U.S. Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs David Cohen says Gov. Benigno R. Fitial’s "socialism" argument against the bill to federalize the islands’ immigration system is incorrect.

The governor made the statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3079, or the Northern Marianas Immigration, Security and Labor Act of 2007, which will also create a CNMI nonvoting delegate seat in the U.S. Congress.

"This bill would impose a federal labor system on the commonwealth which is nothing more, or less, than an effort to enforce a ‘command economy’ system on the Northern Marianas. In another day, it would be called socialism," Fitial said.

But Cohen said the governor’s analysis contradicts the spirit of the federalization measure which, he added, is more flexible than any laws that apply to every other community in the U.S. and is designed to help the islands’ economy recover.

"I have heard the argument that the federalization bill would impose a socialist command economy on the CNMI, and hence the bill is inconsistent with America’s free market principles," said Cohen. "That analysis cannot be correct, and here’s why: The CNMI immigration federalization bill uses the U.S. immigration law as a starting point, and then adds unprecedented flexibility that is tailored to the CNMI’s special needs to attract workers, tourists, investors and other visitors."

He said the federalization bill also has provisions enticing investors to invest in the commonwealth as well as giving more opportunities for migrant workers.

"If the U.S. has a free market economy with its existing immigration law, including the laws for bringing in workers, how can a much more flexible law result in a socialist command economy in the CNMI? It doesn’t make sense," said Cohen.

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