Leaders of Filipino groups on Saipan listen to CNMI officials explain in an open forum the impact on foreign workers of the new CNMI labor reform law. File photo: Haidee V. EugenioSAN ANTONIO, Saipan – Almost half or 31 of the 64 listed ‘overstayers’ in the US Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) are Filipinos, based on a list published by the CNMI Department of Labor on Monday.
The CNMI is currently home to some 19,000 documented foreign workers mostly Filipinos, and the rest are from other Asian countries that include China and Bangladesh.
CNMI Labor said the 64 foreign nationals on the list “have overstayed the permission granted to them upon their entry into the CNMI," according to records maintained by the government with respect to permits expiring or administrative actions taken during the first quarter of 2008.
“Persons in an overstayer status are required to depart the Commonwealth immediately," CNMI Labor said.
But Human Dignity Movement president Jerry Custodio, from Tacloban, said they are trying to verify the accuracy of the list because one Filipino worker – as of Tuesday – claimed a legal status to remain in the CNMI.
Foreign workers whose names could have been erroneously put on the list of illegal foreigners are asked to report to CNMI Labor before May 30, 2008 for verification.
Florida-based human rights advocate Wendy Doromal, who has been a strong supporter of foreign workers in the CNMI, asked whether CNMI Labor located the last employers of record of these so-called overstayers.
“I am assuming when the DOL states, ‘Persons in an overstayer status are required to depart the Commonwealth immediately’ that the department has located the last employer of record to purchase the ticket for each ‘overstayer’. I have not seen any word on who will be repatriating these alleged ‘overstayers’," she said.
CNMI Labor said the creation of an “overstayers" list is part of the new procedures to easily identify overstaying alien workers in the CNMI.
Each quarter, a Labor staff member who has been specially trained in overstayer work will examine the records with respect to all permits that expired during the calendar year, and put the names of overstayers on the list.
The list will be published twice, once in each of two successive weeks, to give persons on the list an opportunity to appear at Labor and correct if any error has been made.
Last year, CNMI Labor published a list of “overstayers," but a large percentage of them were subsequently found “legal" workers after corrections in their records were made. At the time, Filipinos and other foreign workers came forward to show documentation proving that they have legal status to remain in the CNMI.
The US territory of the CNMI is a 14-island chain that is currently home to about 10,000 documented Filipino workers. The CNMI’s capital of Saipan is about three hours away from Manila. -GMANews.TV