Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Slouching towards federalization

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

It was probably inevitable: all of this apocalyptic talk about immigration made me think of Yeats' Second Coming. With the federal 'takeover' on Nov. 28 just three weeks after Saturday's election, Gov. Benigno R. Fitial continues to run against Washington. His opponents seem content to let it be BE on this subject, at least in the media.

Large businesses have consistently voiced their objections and are likely to comment on the Transitional (CW) Worker Regulations. But those regulations are likely to go into effect as scheduled, unless the Governor's lawyers can pull a rabbit out of their hat.

Unlikely allies

Now, some contract workers are having second thoughts. According to the Marianas Variety, many left a Department of Homeland Security 'forum' on the regulations "with unanswered questions and mounting uncertainty."

Apparently they're shocked that DHS is just following Public Law 110–229, and not adding any provisions. DHS does have the leeway to "phase in the U.S. federal immigration system in a manner that minimizes adverse economic and fiscal effects and maximizes the CNMI’s potential for future economic and business growth." They exercised that discretion in agreeing to add visa waivers for Chinese and Russians.

So, with a specific showing of economic harm from the CW regs, who knows? Not likely, is it? District Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services David Gulick is quoted as saying they haven’t determined yet how to reduce the numbers of guest workers in the CNMI.

But there is no doubt those numbers will be reduced. The bill and the regulations require that workers "who would not otherwise be eligible for admission" under applicable provisions of the Immigration and Naturalization Act find another status or leave the U.S. before Jan. 1, 2015.

What happens Nov. 28? Not the Rapture some doomsayers predict; guest workers will remain. Not the Workers' Paradise some starry-eyed optimists have predicted despite evidence to the contrary. In the short term, everything will continue as before. We'll just have a new set of friendly faces greeting us at ports of entry.

Velvet handcuffs

According to the Variety "Gulick’s main message to the migrants and their employers: CNMI-issued labor or umbrella permits are not legally recognized to allow one to reenter the commonwealth or resume work after leaving the islands for whatever reasons."

The golden umbrella becomes velvet handcuffs: USCIS won't hunt you down, but you can't leave and come back without having a status approved by them.

Time for another creative solution like the visa waiver, according to the Governor. "It doesn’t make sense for them to be restricting the travels of the workers," he says.

Well, actually it does. Anyone who is currently in the CNMI has been cleared by the local government, not the feds. It's no surprise, to me at least, that DHS wants to have investors, CW's and all other categories go through the visa process. To them, it's the same as entering for the first time.

That's the short-term. Down the road, well, how do you interpret the poem?

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

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