Want to Get the Immigration Law Enforced in CNMI? Then You Lose Unemployment Benefits

By David North on September 9, 2021

A tiny bit of the Open Doors Establishment has found a new way to thwart those seeking to enforce the immigration law: Deny them unemployment insurance. Or so my correspondent says. I am not saying that this is a trend, or even accurate, but an immigration whistle-blower in a place where that sort of behavior is discouraged has told a federal court that is what happened to him. There are plenty of stories of those seeking enforcement of the immigration law being damaged in one way or the other, but this is the first time I’ve heard of this particular technique.

Locale. This issue arose in the federal courts in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), which lie just north of Guam in the Western Pacific. The islands, once the colony of, sequentially, Spain, Germany, and Japan, and once a United Nations Mandate, is the newest of the U.S. territories. It probably has the most corrupt local government under our flag, and certainly has a higher proportion of foreign workers than any other U.S. jurisdiction.

The Underlying Complaint. The whistle-blower has been charging the local government for years that it has (with the passive assistance of the Department of Homeland Security) allowed too much utilization of foreign workers (which is certainly true) and that this has caused him and other citizen workers to lose their jobs. There is a CNMI-only visa, the CW, which allows this to happen, as we have reported in the past.

The Whistleblower. The individual in this case, Zaji O. Zajradhara, has written to me (and many others) a series of screeds over the last few months against CNMI foreign worker policies, ALWAYS IN CAPS, usually enraged, and often using battered English.

In his court case against the CNMI Secretary of Labor, Vicky Benavente, he argues that he has been denied unemployment benefits “due to Vicky Benavente’s overtly/covertly retaliating against me for requesting a full audit of the CNMI Department of Labor.” Since his case was filed on September 8, she has not yet had a chance to reply.

Zajradhara’s complaint says that he drew UI benefits for a while, but in recent months he has not received them because they have been “slow-walked” by the bureaucracy. He also says that because the CNMI government’s phones reveal the name of the caller, his calls are not answered. (Why he did not call the local labor department on someone else’s phone is not discussed.)

The Citation. The documents in this case can be seen in the federal courts’ PACER system as case 1:21-cv-00006. It is the first time I have read a “layman’s motion” in handwriting; in this case it is quite legible.

Having both worked in New Jersey’s unemployment insurance system, and having made official visits to the islands while dealing with migration matters at the U.S. Department of the Interior, I found this combination of issues of special interest.