Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Guam official: Foreign worker problems in Saipan not happening here

Two additional human smuggling-related federal indictments allege hundreds of construction workers for a Saipan casino project were recruited in mainland China, brought in as tourists under a visa-waiver program and weren't paid what was promised to them.
The additional indictments, filed April 5, led to the arrest of two suspects who were allegedly part of the operation to use illegal foreign labor at the Saipan casino construction site, as they tried to depart on a flight back to China.
Six defendants and six federal human-smuggling cases have been filed in recent days in the federal court in Saipan.

In Guam, Greg Massey, administrator of the local Department of Labor's Alien Labor Processing and Certification Division, said the foreign labor problem exposed in the recent FBI raids in Saipan isn't occurring in Guam.
"I can say that large numbers of workers entering under visa waivers, like what happened in the construction industry in CNMI recently, aren't happening here," Massey said. "Guam DOL monitors construction sites on a regular basis to prevent that kind of serious conduct."
While Guam doesn't have a visa-waiver program for tourists from mainland China, the territory does have tourists entering Guam through visa-waiver programs for tourists from South Korea, Taiwan and Russia, among other markets.
Guam employers' past hiring of foreign workers, mostly for construction jobs on H-2B visas, have been mostly limited to workers from the Philippines and South Korea. Workers from China are not allowed to be petitioned on H-2B visas for Guam.
Joseph Bradley, a longtime Guam economist and senior vice president at the Bank of Guam, said he never expected Guam to get federal approval for a visa-waiver program for tourists from China because of security concerns for U.S. military bases on the island.
"Frankly, I never gave the China visa-waiver into Guam much of a chance anyway," Bradley said.
"Too much military activity and facilities here, and too much 'below-the-radar' military tension between China and the U.S., so we'll want them to at least go through a cursory visa-application process with the Department of State," he said.
One of the cases cites as an example a worker who was recruited in China, and who came into Saipan to help build the casino, who didn't get paid three months into his job, according to an FBI agent's affidavit. In this worker's case, he was promised about $1,400 a month.
The alleged human smuggling operation began to unravel when one of the workers who came in as a tourist in Saipan under the visa-waiver program died in a workplace accident at the casino construction site on March 22.
More than half of the 500 workers for one of the companies named in the FBI affidavits, Beilida Overseas CNMI Limited, came in as tourists, according to court documents.
The first set of indictments, filed April 3, included charges against Lu Hui, president and director of Saipan-based Beilida Overseas CNMI Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Nanjing Beilida New Materials System Engineering Co.
The latest indictments were filed against Guo Wencai and Qi Xiufang, alleged supervisors of one of the human smuggling operations that used "hei gong" or undocumented workers, to build the gold-leaf-decked, massive casino project. The two were stopped at the Saipan International Airport while trying to leave for China last week.
They were caught at the international airport shortly after the April 3 indictments offered the first public confirmation of the reason for FBI raids at the offices of construction management companies that provided workers for the casino project. In the earlier set of indictments, four people were charged with unlawful hiring of illegal workers, including Beilida CNMI's president.
The indictments in Saipan have cast further doubt on Guam's chances of ever getting a visa-waiver program for tourists from mainland China.
Guam tourism industry officials have spent more than a decade of on-and-off lobbying for a program similar to what the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had granted to Saipan and the rest of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

No comments: