Friday, November 27, 2009

Chamorro Savings Time*

I really wasn't going to write about the lawsuit. (Saipan Tribune and Marianas Variety) The Department of Homeland Security still takes over 'after midnight' tonight. Most of the contract workers will still have to be gone in five years. So, what's changed by District Court Judge Paul Friedman's preliminary injunction?

There are no interim rules. We just get the full U.S. immigration package. The CNMI argued, persuasively to me, that DHS didn't follow the Administrative Procedures Act. Okay, the judge said, follow them: propose regulations, give an adequate comment period, consider the comments and then promulgate final rules.

It's like Daylight Savings Time: we can push time back, but only for a few months.

"The commonwealth will continue to operate under its existing labor system except for entry and exit," volunteered part-time attorney Deanne Siemer. Umm. No. We just won't have interim rules to soften the transition yet.

In one of this lawsuit's strange twists, Friedman writes that "The CNMI maintains that the Commonwealth’s guest worker population currently is experiencing high rates of unemployment, and that employers are consequently unlikely to require permits for new guest workers in the near future. Reply at 20-21. Consequently, the United States cannot argue with any degree of certainty that CNMI employers will be harmed by the issuance of a preliminary injunction in this matter."

Got that? Everybody's in limbo. If there are problems, Friedman writes, "To assist either foreign workers seeking to leave and return to the CNMI or employers desperately in need of workers from outside the Commonwealth, DHS may, if necessary, promulgate a narrowly focused and temporary emergency regulation that addresses only the problem at hand."

That's a far cry from Siemer's formulation that "Friedman also virtually commanded DHS to come up with an emergency regulation allowing aliens in the commonwealth to travel in and out."

Rhetorical question: what substantive changes do you expect to see when we get the final regulations?

("The CNMI maintains that the Commonwealth’s guest worker population currently is experiencing high rates of unemployment.")

* I'm not forgetting my Carolinian friends. It's just that I couldn't pass up the word play on Chamorro Standard Time.

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