Tag Archives: Saipan

We need your help to fix the Mariana Islands! (cross-posted at Dailykos)

(Great work guys. Another reason to love Huey 😉 – promoted by juls)

We have some amazing news! Over the last four months, Nick Shepard and I (Neil Pople) have been struggling to begin Ripples of Hope. We’ve been talking with important officials, meeting with potential donors, taking advice from some of the most respected non-profit organizations and their staff, and making contact with potential board of advisors and even celebrity supporters. And now, we’re happy to report, that progress has begun moving along at an alarmingly rapid pace.

We have officially recruited our first two Board of Advisors member, Denise Gilpatrick and Wendy Doromal. Denise is a licensed clinical social worker specializing in sexual and pre-teen abuse. Her work is what got her interested in the Marianas, and has been working through volunteering, researching and internet blogging to bring awareness to the public on the islands’ plight. With her experience and knowledge, we now have a great start to our board. Wendy Doromal, as many of you may know, is a high school teacher from Orlando, Florida. She was an investigator for the Department of the Interior in the late 1990’s and documented the abuses on the Mariana Islands for President Clinton and Congress. She has since worked tirelessly to help the victims of the Marianas, and adds a tremendous amount of experience to our team.

On February 20th, Nick and I signed and sent our request to be recognized as a corporation with the California Secretary of State’s office. This is a critical first step in being recognized as an official non-profit. It has been incredibly difficult to start an organization from scratch, but we aren’t giving up now that we’ve come so far and we are on our way to being able to help the people who need it most.

To top off a fantastic February and begin another great month in March, we received a wonderful gift from actor/comedian Jorge Garcia. Jorge, who plays “Hurley” on ABC’s smash-hit television series `LOST,’ has joined our efforts to help bring justice to the Mariana Islands. He has been committed to helping those less fortunate whenever he can, from playing in celebrity charity poker tournaments benefiting Katrina reconstruction to volunteering time to help with a children’s theater group in Hawaii. Now he has thrown his support behind building up Ripples of Hope, and we couldn’t be happier!

Ripples of Hope has also garnered the attention of two American heroes: former California Congressmen Jerome Waldie (D) and Pete McCloskey (R). The interest of these great statesmen to RoH only goes to show that this is not a left vs. right issue, but indeed something both sides of the political spectrum can come together on. This is indeed an issue of right vs. wrong.

Our next step is to finally file for official 501(c)3 status with the IRS. With Mr. Garcia’s generous assistance, we are days away from doing just that. We are also continuing our work in recruiting a strong board of advisors, and will be opening a bank account in the upcoming days as well.

However, we still need your help.

We need to ensure that the men, women and children of the Mariana Islands are cared for. There’s no reason why immigrant workers should be sold into sex slavery, forced to abort their babies, work in sweatshop conditions and get paid a fraction of our minimum wage.  We need pledges to help us get started. A pledge to help Ripples of Hope will ensure that the people on the islands have a voice. When we get up and running, we want to help support Karidat, the Catholic social services group on the islands, as well as developing our own programs like those designed to help the pregnant immigrants have a safe place to have their babies free of worry or fear.

Help us begin our work with a contribution pledge by visiting our website at www.ripplesofhope.org and continue to send us your thoughts and comments. We appreciate all that you have done so far.

We also need your help in identifying and finding people of influence that can help us build this organization. Does anyone have contact with  political figures like Congressman George Miller or former Secretary of State Madeline Albright? Bloggers like Howie Klein? A TV or film actor that might be sympathetic to the plight of the people on the Marianas? If so, tell them about what we are working to achieve and what their support could mean. We are looking to find people that are committed to helping create positive change in the Marianas and eventually elsewhere around the world. If you’re a former campaign worker like Nick and myself or just an astute political enthusiast, you understand how an endorsement or statement of support can help a long way. We appreciate all the kind words and the encouragement we have seen so far.

The Truth of the Marianas

(I had the pleasure of helping out Nick and Neil on the Brown campaign. They were greatly affected by what they learned about the Marianas and hopefully can draw greater attention to the atrocities. – promoted by juls)

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) has been a sore issue with certain politicians in Washington. Political leaders such as Tom DeLay, John Doolittle, Richard Pombo, Conrad Burns, Ralph Reed and even President George W. Bush have been linked to the scandals involving Jack Abramoff and the horrific human rights abuses on these tiny Pacific Islands under US supervision. As concerned citizens who first learned about the Marianas while working as staffers on the Charlie brown for Congress campaign, Nick Shepard and myself (Neil Pople) decided to create a non-profit group that would address the issues our elected officials and political leaders seem unwilling and unable to tackle…

More below the fold…

Calling ourselves “Ripples of Hope” after an amazing 1966 Robert F. Kennedy speech in Cape Town, South Africa (http://www.americanr….), we hope to affect change in the world, one issue at a time, causing ripples of hope to the disenfranchised people who live on American soil. Our first in what we hope to be many projects spanning the globe, we decided to tackle the egregious human rights and labor abuses going on in the Mariana Islands. These three tiny islands just miles from Guam, are composed of Saipan, Tinia and Rota. While the islands themselves rival Fiji and Maui in their natural beauty, there is a dark and ugly side that needs to be discussed.

As a Commonwealth of the United States of America, the islands are under the sovereignty of this country. US Federal laws apply to the CNMI, with the following exceptions:

• The CNMI is not within the customs territory of the US
• Federal minimum wage provisions do not apply
• Federal immigration laws do not apply
• The CNMI can establish its own tax laws
• The Jones Act, requiring goods shipped between US ports to be carried on US- registered ships, does not apply to the CNMI [1]
The 1995 CNMI Census data showed that 53% of the population are not American citizens. Non-residents are precluded by law from certain occupations and are largely working in the tourist, garment, construction and domestic service industries [2]. The CNMI is advertised as a place for foreign workers to come for “good American jobs.” They came to pursue the American dream, but what they unwittingly walked into was a labor nightmare, complete with shadow contracts that set extremely strict guidelines that limit the personal freedoms of the workers. The immigration laws on the Marianas do not comply with US law. In addition, these laws allow uncontrolled immigration to American soil (a serious security threat) and at a direct economic benefit to Communist China, which owns many of the garment factories, casinos and sex shops on CNMI.

The garment industry itself has been dominated by Chinese manufacturers employed by such major designers as Polo-Ralph Lauren, GAP, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein. These companies enjoy the fact that, as a US Territory, the Mariana sweatshops get to sew “Made in the USA” on the labels of Chinese-manufactured clothing brought in duty-free to the islands. 

Garment workers on the Marianas often aren’t paid at all, work 16-20 hour days, are forced to pay huge “recruitment fees” to foreign recruiters, live in squalid housing, are malnourished, forced by employment contracts to have abortions if they become pregnant, and fired if they attend church. Many do not even have promised jobs waiting for them when they get to the islands, and are forced by their recruiters to be a part of the islands’ growing sex trade, or face being sent back to their home country… penniless and in violation of legal contracts that could force them to see jail time.

A 1999 Department of the Interior report described that the federal government was well aware of the human rights abuses, immigration policies and minimum wage violations:

“Even though the (Federal-CNMI Initiative on Labor, Immigration and Law Enforcement) Initiative has provided increased resources to address the problems, the Administration finds that the government of the CNMI is unwilling to alter its basic immigration, minimum wage, and garment manufacturing policies, and that there are  fundamental weaknesses in CNMI law enforcement [3].”

Despite this report, the House of Representatives failed to take action, and bills proposed by Congressman George Miller and Senators Frank Murkowski and Daniel Akaka were killed in committee over 29 times in the last decade. Progress and basic human rights have been denied the immigrant workers virtually enslaved on the Marianas. There is a time to sit back and there is a time to take action. Now is the time to take action.

Please take a look at the links to the following websites. They will prove useful in your basic understanding of the desperate situation in Saipan. We all need to get educated on this issue if we expect to make ripples…


These are but a very small sampling of the diverse groups and individuals working on stopping the abuses on the Marianas. With your help writing your Congress and pledging support for Ripples of Hope, we can “build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Thank you for your time and efforts,

Neil Pople and Nick Shepard
Founders, Ripples of Hope

PS- If you are interested in pledging support for our cause, please feel free to email us at [email protected].

[1] U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs: A Report on the State of the Islands, 1999 page 25
[2] U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs: A Report on the State of the Islands, 1999 page 26
[3] U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs: A Report on the State of the Islands, 1999 page 6