Saturday, March 14, 2009

Indigenous group says federalization ‘violates’ NMI right to self-government

Friday, 13 March 2009 00:00 By Gemma Q. Casas - Variety News Staff

THE CNMI Descent for Self-Government and Indigenous Rights Inc. says the U.S. Congress exceeded its lawful powers under the Covenant when it enacted the federalization law, or U.S. P.L. 110-229.

The CNMI Descent filed its 48-page brief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia as amicus curiae or friend of the court.

Federal Judge Paul Friedman allowed the CNMI Descent to file its brief but not to orally argue its position.

The group’s counsel, Saipan defense attorney Robert O’Connor, argued that federalization “is the infringement on, and deprivation of, the CNMI’s Covenant-guaranteed right of self-government,” and that this “is the immediate and primary injury, not any economic harm that may ultimately result from that deprivation.”

He added, “Regardless of how the law is classified or described, Congress exceeded its lawful powers under the Covenant by enacting it, and this court must therefore uphold the Covenant by enjoining its application to the CNMI.”

The lawyer said they are not seeking economic damages but rather a declaratory relief.

According to O’Connor, U.S. P.L. 110-229 not only applies federal immigration law to the CNMI but also creates a new and unique immigration law for the commonwealth.

“It purports…to establish a separate and distinct regulatory regime of indefinite duration, under which the immigration laws of the CNMI are established by the secretary of Homeland Security, in [her] sole discretion,” he said.

Gov. Benigno R. Fitial believes that federalization will destroy what is left of the CNMI’s alien labor-based economy.

The federal government, for its part, argued that the Covenant allows Congress to extend U.S. immigration law to the islands.

No comments: