Saturday, March 14, 2009

NMI resident disputes local group’s federalization claim

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

A local resident who wants to participate in the ongoing CNMI lawsuit against the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and Labor in a federal court in Washington, D.C. is challenging the legitimacy of the CNMI Descent for Self-Government and Indigenous Rights’ claim that it represents 4,100 persons of NMI-descent.

Human rights lawyer Bruce Jorgensen told the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Paul L. Friedman that his client, Celina Tilipao Mettao Setefano, an NMI-descent person is questioning the validity of the CNMI Descent group’s contention.

Setefano asked Friedman to allow her to file a brief as an amicus curiae, Latin for “friend of the court,” a privilege granted to the CNMI Descent group.

Jorgensen said there are also indigenous people who believe that the federalization law would be good for the CNMI.

He said Setefano is among those indigenous people who welcome the changes to the islands’ immigration system.

“Ms. Setefano and similarly situated others maintain that a substantial if not overwhelming number of CNMI situated persons of NMI descent and of non-NMI descent, including both U.S. and non-U.S. citizens, resoundingly support, laud, and are collectively relieved by, the recently enacted federal statutory provisions by which the U.S. government has finally come to the aid of the CNMI general populace — including the CNMI’s disenfranchised masses…,” he said.

“Local immigration laws, policies, and procedures have been “ineptly and woefully controlled over the past two decades by a malfeasant CNMI bureaucracy,” he added.

Jorgensen asked permission to attend today’s scheduled hearing regarding the CNMI’s motion to declare that certain provisions of the federalization law are illegal and the Department of Justice’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Lawyers from the Washington-based law firm Jenner & Block will orally argue for the CNMI’s motion for preliminary injunction.

A team of Justice Department of lawyers will represent Homeland Security and the U.S. Labor in the hearing.

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