Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fitial: Ombudsman shouldn't accommodate 'overstayers'

Fitial: Ombudsman shouldn't accommodate 'overstayers'

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

By Haidee V. Eugenio

Gov. Benigno R. Fitial expressed concern yesterday about the Federal Labor Ombudsman's ongoing “accounting” of nonresident workers in the CNMI, saying such process should not be used to allow the continued stay on the islands of foreigners with no legal status to remain here.

“I hope she's not going to accommodate those overstayers,” Fitial told reporters on Capital Hill yesterday afternoon.

Fitial, who authorized the distribution of thousands of “umbrella permits” through the CNMI Department of Labor, also expressed concern about Federal Labor Ombudsman Pamela Brown's authority to conduct the accounting of nonresident workers.

“I'm concerned about the authority; if she has the authority to do what she's trying to do,” Fitial added.

The governor also said that nonresident workers are already “in good hands with the umbrella [permits].”

The Federal Labor Ombudsman's Office started the accounting of nonresident workers in the CNMI at 4pm yesterday. Based on the agency's schedule, alien workers having last names starting with A and B were to report to its offices at the Marina Heights II Building yesterday.

Alien workers are told to bring a copy of their passport or other photo identification when they go to the federal agency's office for the accounting process, which will be held daily until Dec. 29, 2009.

In a notice, the ombudsman said the accounting process is based on Public Law 110-229 or the federalization law, which requires the U.S. Department of the Interior to report to the U.S. Congress the total number of aliens within the Commonwealth.

Dekada Movement counsel Stephen C. Woodruff earlier cautioned alien workers who do not have “umbrella permits” against participating in the “accounting” process.

“There is a very real risk that aliens lacking an umbrella permit who register with the Ombudsman's office could be setting themselves up as targets for deportation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” he said in a statement.

CHC autonomy bill

In other news, the governor said he's waiting for comments from different agencies, including the Office of the Attorney General, on a bill providing autonomy to and ensuring accountability by, the Commonwealth Health Center.

House Bill 16-9, which seeks to create a Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., is now on Fitial's desk for action.

On Dec. 3, the House of Representatives approved on a 14-0 vote the Senate amendments to the bill.

The CHC bill, authored by Rep. Heinz S. Hofschneider and House Speaker Arnold I. Palacios, is hailed as “landmark” legislation by lawmakers and officials, including Health Secretary Joseph Kevin Villagomez and Rep. Tina Sablan (Ind-Saipan).

In other news, Fitial said everyone is invited to his inauguration set for Jan. 11, 2010.

Fitial is only the second governor in CNMI history to be re-elected.

When asked whether he would invite Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (D-MP) or Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs Tony Babauta, Fitial said, “Everyone deserves to be invited.”

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