(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 
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 . 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 .”
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].
 U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs: A Report on the State of the Islands, 1999 page 25
 U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs: A Report on the State of the Islands, 1999 page 26
 U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs: A Report on the State of the Islands, 1999 page 6