Friday, July 6, 2007

Taotao Tano shows their true colors

Food For Thought 7-6-07

Hi friends, this is Harry Blalock; General Manager for radio stations KZMI & KCNM. It’s that time once again to take a look at the issues of the week, and to offer some Food For Thought.

About a month ago I had Greg Cruz, the founder of the Taotao Tano group on my morning talk show talking about what they were trying to accomplish as a group. While I didn’t agree with everything he had to say, I felt for the most part he was on target with what they were trying to accomplish as a group. They were fed up with the corruption and incompetence of elected officials. They wanted to see more accountability and results from their leaders. They wanted a power company that was operated properly, efficiently and effectively. I can go along with all of that, I want the same things.

But recently the have crossed a line which I cannot tolerate in any way. They went from being political activists to now being social and ethnic activists. They were out picketing against the Dekada movement with signs telling all contract workers to go home that we don’t need them here and they don’t belong here. All the sudden they went from being a group trying to invoke political change to a group of hate mongering racists. Some of them may not have even realized what happened and how quickly it changed who they were and how they were perceived.

Now I’m not a fan of the Dekada movement either, but not for the same reasons. I feel that the Dekada movement is off base, and is demanding things they really have no right to demand. Just because these workers have been here for 5 years does not automatically entitle them to citizenship or voting rights. They were never told they would get those things when they signed on to work jobs here. They were told they would be paid to do a job here, and that’s what they got. And for many years, the contract workers were content to work their jobs, get their pay, and they never had expectations of getting anything else out of it.

Then along comes a lawyer who isn’t exactly busy with cases, and he links up with some of the contract workers, and tells them that if they form an organization, and start recruiting all of their fellow contract workers, and all pay him $100 each, that he will represent them and work to get them all U.S. citizenship. All the sudden many of these contract workers, who were previously happy just to have their jobs here, now all the sudden believe that this lawyer may actually be able to do something to get them either permanent residency or U.S. citizenship. They realize that the political climate has changed in the U.S., the Democrats are now in control of the House and Senate, and they are much more likely to be convinced to grant the contract workers some kind of permanent status. They are now thinking they are entitled to permanent residency, voting rights, or maybe even the Holy Grail itself, U.S. citizenship.

The first reason I am not a fan of this movement is because I believe it really is a way for an allegedly ethically challenged lawyer to rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars. He is praying on people’s desperation and desire to improve their standing in life. If they can get permanent residency or U.S. citizenship, it means they would never have to live in the Philippines again, and that they could sponsor their other family members and get them out of the Philippines as well. As someone who has been to Manila several times, I can totally understand why this would be so attractive and appealing to these contract workers. But I just really don’t appreciate this attorney using these people and their desperation as a get rich quick scheme. Because frankly, if their status changes and they get some kind of new permanent resident status, it won’t be because of his lobbying efforts or anything else he did, it will probably be due to Allen Stayman and his agenda for these islands.

If we were to go to almost any other country as a contract worker, they would not consider giving us permanent residency or citizenship just because we fulfilled the terms of our contract. There are a few countries that do consider giving citizenship to those who have decided to relocate there, but they are few and far between. Our contract workers have provided a very valuable service to us while they’ve been here, but the terms of their contracts have been honored, and they’ve been paid and given the benefits promised. This new thinking that they are entitled to citizenship or permanent residency is a bit presumptuous of them.

If the U.S. government decides that they should get permanent residency or F.A.S. status, I guess that is within their rights to grant to them. I am a little curious as to why they would decide to treat the contract workers here differently than the way treat their own contract workers, but that’s an argument for another day. However, if the U.S. does grant this time of residency, then I believe they should also have a plan laid out for how they plan to compensate the CNMI for the added burden of these new permanent residents. Now that they will be permanent residents, they will no longer be treated as contract workers here, which means their employers will no longer be responsible for their medical care. Now all the sudden instead of the employer being responsible for the hospital costs associated with every baby born to a contract worker, they would then be responsible for those costs themselves. What if they don’t have insurance? Will they really pay for all the bills incurred at C.H.C.? We already have a huge problem of people not paying for their medical bills; can you imagine how much worse it would be under that system?

If they are permanent residents, it means they can start bringing all their family over to live with them as well. They will no longer be tied to only bringing family members along if they make a wage high enough to guarantee they can support them. This means additional bills at C.H.C. and it also means that our already overcrowded schools will have a huge influx of students. We don’t have property taxes or anything else that is earmarked to pay for public education. It all just comes out of the general government coffers. Is the U.S. ready to take responsibility for all the additional costs to the CNMI government if they give these contract workers permanent resident status? So far I have heard nothing that would indicate they would be willing to give us anymore money to offset those costs at all, if anything I’ve heard just the opposite.

It’s all good and fine if the U.S. wants to exercise their right to grant permanent residency, but with that right comes a fairly sizable responsibility and financial obligation as well. So I am definitely against the granting of the permanent residency if the U.S. has no intention of helping to take care of the costs associated with it. That would be like me inviting all of you to join me for dinner at a certain restaurant tonight, but then when the check comes, I would look at the restaurant expecting them to pay for it all. Not very realistic, and I don’t think it’s very realistic for the U.S. government to expect us to all the sudden absorb all these extra permanent residents without offsetting the cost of it for us, especially since it would be their decision to grant them permanent residency in the first place.

Now if the U.S. has a plan for that, and they actually start making good on their compact impact payments to us, then that would be a different story. But so far I haven’t heard anything even remotely like that.

But back to where this started in the first place, for the Taotao Tano group to be picketing contract workers telling them all to go home and that we don’t want them here, I think shows an extremely prejudiced and racist side that I find appalling. I have noticed that some of the people who initially joined with this group have now distanced themselves from it as a result of their racist views. And I’m guessing that even the groups legitimate points will now be lost in the shuffle as a result of their taking things too far, and allowing racism and bigotry to enter into their agenda. They have completely eroded their credibility by not sticking to their original message and intent. When you are so focused on yourself that you don’t care what happens to those around you, you will find there are fewer and fewer people that actually want anything to do with you. Because they know that sooner or later they will find something about you that could make them picket you too.

I’m guessing that the U.S. politicians are also watching the Taotao Tano group, and that it only adds fuel to their fire as to why they should completely federalize the CNMI Immigration system. One of the things that doesn’t get the airplay it should is that this group is nowhere near as big as they claim, especially now. They have claimed to have thousands of members, and yet when they hold a meeting or a rally, they are lucky to get 50 people to show up. And I don’t believe their argument that most of their supporters are government workers who are afraid to be seen with them for fear of retaliation. If they really had that many supporters in the government, then you would figure there would still be a fair amount in the private sector and unemployed who would show up to support them. But when that’s all you can get to show up, it is indicative that you simply don’t have broad spread appeal or support. And when you show that you’re a racist, it should come as no surprise that you have no support or followers.

I’m Harry Blalock, thanking you once again for giving me a generous slice of your valuable time, and allowing me to share my Food For Thought.

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My commentary that airs on radio stations KZMI - 103.9 FM & KCNM - 101.1 FM