My Turn: Doolittle always an ally to the islands | SierraSun.com

My Turn: Doolittle always an ally to the islands

Pete A. Tenorio

A Sierra Sun guest column (“Choose wisely at the polls this fall” Aug. 14) attacked Congressman John Doolittle, and falsely characterized this honorable and decent human being as an evildoer, an abortionist and a pimp.

I have known Congressman Doolittle for a long time as a religious, compassionate and dignified human being, who is also a dedicated and hard-working member of Congress, willing to stand up in defense and protection of the people of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Congressman Doolittle is fully aware of the CNMI’s political agreement with the United States.

I would imagine the writer is unaware that the CNMI became a part of the United States in 1977, and that most federal laws are applicable and enforceable there, including OSHA’s stringent requirements for workplace safety and health. To mouth off about the CNMI and belittle and throw insults to Congressman Doolittle without having the facts about our nation’s agreement, but instead interpret and rely on biased and outdated news reports, including extreme partisan viewpoints, is irresponsible.

I have the honor of being one of the founding fathers of our Commonwealth, having participated in the numerous rounds of negotiations with federal representatives. We developed a mutually binding political agreement with the United States in 1976, thus incorporating our islands into the American political family. This covenant was endorsed by both Democrats and Republicans. Unfortunately, the covenant lacks a provision that provides for a non-voting delegate in Congress to represent and speak on our behalf.

Congressman Doolittle, knowing this unfair situation, and wanting to correct this wrong, has taken it upon himself to help us, to defend us from radicals in Congress who could care less about our islands, and who would use us as political fodder. Naturally during an election season, there are a lot of partisan political battles where ugly remarks and accusations are invariably leveled against the opposing side to score a point. This is exactly how your guest columnist’s opinion reads, and makes the guest writer appear to be a blind supporter, desperate to win votes for his candidate of choice.

Sadly, the writer has victimized the innocent people of the CNMI, smeared the name of an honorable man ” Congressman Doolittle, whose humane mission is to prevent the bullies in Congress from unfairly punishing the people of the CNMI.

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The CNMI was provided control over immigration and minimum wage in the covenant. We have used these provisions to try and build a self-sufficient economy that is not reliant on federal handouts as some territories are. Because all territories are outside of the U.S. customs territory, anything manufactured in a territory is considered an import into the U.S. The territories are given few import privileges, and are often treated less favorably than some foreign countries. Because of criticism, we stopped using the “made in U.S.A” label, one of the few privileges we have, a long time ago.

Yes, we made some mistakes, but we have worked closely with the federal government to address them and to provide for the safety, health, and protection of all people in the CNMI, including guest workers. There have been some incidences of human rights abuse of the guest workers in our garment factories, reported cases of prostitution, and I understand, forced abortion. I also know that these cases are well in our past, and enforcement of CNMI and federal laws has been greatly improved. I can also assure you that most of the allegations in the guest column are greatly exaggerated. It is easier to sell magazines that have scandalous headlines.

The guest columnist is wrong, and vicious to infer that Congressman Doolittle is directly responsible for any of the abuses. He has steadfastly defended our political relationship with the United States, and holds us to high standards of law enforcement. He also understands how difficult our journey to democracy has been, and we are thankful he has been a valuable mentor for us.

I wish the writer and I could have the opportunity to personally meet and discuss the problems we face in our Commonwealth so I might better convey what it is like living in the CNMI. One cannot imagine the challenges that we must face daily. Our greatest hope is for people like the guest columnist to be educated on the facts of our disenfranchised status. It has been 30 long years since we were granted American citizenship, yet to date, we still have no voice in Congress, and I can tell you that without the understanding and support of Americans like Congressman John Doolittle, the CNMI would not have the privilege of having an ear willing to hear the truth about us. Congressman Doolittle does not deserve insults and accusations from political enemies, whose information about him is second-hand, false, exaggerated, and politically motivated.