On Thursday, May 8, President George W. Bush signed into law Senate bill S.2739, the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008. It’s ironic – if no longer a surprise to those of us familiar with the way the United States treats its offshore territories – that a bill on “natural resources” contained legislation addressing immigration and representation for the people of the Northern Marianas – who until now have been able to control their own immigration laws, but who have had no voice at all in the US Congress.
Tucked into this omnibus bill – which designates and expands wilderness areas and national parks, funds some water projects, and modifies two existing energy programs – are provisions federalizing the CNMI’s immigration laws, and creating a non-voting delegate from the CNMI to the US House of Representatives. (Makes sense, right? Parks… energy… immigration? Anyone?)
Pete A. Tenorio, who is featured in The Insular Empire, has served as the CNMI’s Resident Representative to the US (a position with no real power within the US federal system – and one that, with the passing of S.2739, is now obsolete) since 2002. He is now deciding whether or not to throw his hat in the ring for the new Delegate spot.
“Too many people are saying that my support for the immigration portion of this law was a trade-off for the delegate seat,” said Tenorio in a recent interview with Marianas Variety. “The choice before the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs and myself was to apply federal immigration laws with or without a delegate — either way federalization of immigration was going to happen.” Given the current Democratic Congress, the long-standing stink over labor abuses in the Northern Marianas’ garment industry — championed by Democratic congressman George Miller — and the subsequent Jack Abramoff scandal, I would tend to believe him.