Most famous for a WWII naval aviation battle, the Marianas Turkey Shoot, and for the nearby Mariana Trench, this Pacific Ocean territory was granted by the U.S. government the lucratively contradictory rights to be both within the U.S. tariff wall for the purposes of not having to pay duties on textiles manufactured on islands (meaning that clothes sewn in the Marianas could display the "Made in USA" label), but outside the U.S. for the purposes of immigration policy.
So, the local authorities in the capital of Saipan set up a guest worker program. Soon, big East Asian apparel companies were bringing in women from the Asian mainland to work in their sweatshops. Something like 40,000 "guests" toiled behind barbed wire, working up to 84-hour weeks. If they got pregnant, their employers sometimes forced them to have abortions. The American media would occasionally run reports on this scandal. One man who was outraged by what he heard was Alaska Republican Senator Frank Murkowski (now the governor of Alaska). He said, "The last time we heard a justification that economic advances would be jeopardized if workers were treated properly was shortly before Appomattox." In 2000, he persuaded the Senate to vote unanimously to crack down on the abuse of these indentured servants.
So the Commonwealth powers-that-be paid $9 million to lobbyist Jack Abramoff to get Congress off their back. They got their money`s worth. Abramoff met two dozen times with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on this issue, who made sure that the House did nothing. On a golf trip to Saipan, Delay told the local governor, "You represent everything that is good about what we`re trying to do in America."
Today, Abramoff has been sentenced to 70 months in prison, and DeLay has resigned. But their soul goes marching on: The President and the Senate now want to introduce this lovely system to the mainland.
One lesson to learn from this is that the Bush`s "temporary" worker program probably wouldn`t "solve" the problem of Mexican illegal immigration in even the cynically nominal sense. The plan is purported to turn future Mexican border-crossers into legal guest workers.
Yet, you`ll note that none of the sweatshop owners in the Northern Marianas bothered to import guest workers from Mexico. Asians are cheaper, more numerous, and more productive.
When you look at the data in the CIA World Factbook, Mexico turns out to be an above average income country. Five billion people live in countries with lower average per capita GDPs than Mexico`s. And Mexicans are not famed for extremely high productivity.
Thus, it`s likely that this"temporary" worker program will mostly bring in Asians from China, Bangladesh, and the like. Meanwhile, Mexicans will continue to sneak across the border.
This may seem like a flaw in the plan to you, but to the Cheap Labor lobby, it`s not a bug, it`s a feature. They get new legal "temporary" workers, while still getting the old Mexican illegal aliens. What`s not to like?