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They would have been repatriated under old immigration law

By Haidee V. Eugenio SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Jan. 3, 2011) – The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) is now home to almost 2,000 unemployed foreign workers who would have been repatriated or deported under local immigration laws that Governor Benigno R. Fitial said were pre-empted by U.S. Public Law 110-229.

Fitial, in his written State of the Commonwealth report to the Legislature on December 30, criticized yet again the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for failing to deport any of these illegal aliens "unless they have committed a crime."

He said a principal objective of PL 110-229, which placed CNMI immigration under federal control, was to deport from the Commonwealth all foreigners who were not entitled to a standard federal visa.

"That would cover all foreign workers who no longer had a job in the Commonwealth and could not qualify for an H visa," Fitial told the Legislature.

He added that the islands now have "close to 2,000 unemployed foreign workers."

This is up from the over 1,300 in illegal foreign workers that the governor told a U.S. congressional hearing in Washington, D.C. in May.

Fitial, in his seven-page report to the Legislature on Thursday, said the CNMI government has provided these unemployed foreign workers' names to the appropriate DHS officials.

"We have been told that the Department has no intention of proceeding to deport any of these illegal aliens unless they have committed a crime. It is this lack of effective DHS enforcement that prompted the enactment of the Arizona law that is now under challenge by the federal government," Fitial said.

He added that the Commonwealth has a "special problem" with these "illegal foreigners."

The governor also talked about the demands placed on CNMI public services by these so-called illegal foreigners. He said they also do not pay taxes, and that the "entire community suffers from their presence in the Commonwealth."

Fitial said he will continue to press for more effective DHS enforcement in the CNMI.

He said the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands stands ready to use local resources, including attorneys and judges, to help the Department of Homeland Security enforce laws which expressly provide for such local-federal cooperation.

There has been removal cases filed with the Saipan U.S. Immigration court since the federalization law took effect on November 28, 2009. Most of the respondents are convicted of criminal charges both in federal and local courts. The immigration court has ordered the removal of some of the respondents and granted voluntary departure to a few.

The Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement earlier said it's the Commonwealth’s Department of Labor that is delaying the process by not providing the additional information the Immigration and Customs Enforcement requires to take action on any of the leads.

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