Monday, September 28, 2009

Opening for Intake in Domestic Cases

The Marianas Office will be accepting applications for help in domestic cases from October 5 through October 8, 2009.

What is a domestic case? Any family-type issue, including claims and defenses about divorce, paternity, child support, child custody, adoption, guardianship, name change, and marital property.

If you have a family legal issue and need advice or representation, now is the time to call our office and make an appointment for intake during the week of October 5-October 8, 2009. Our telephone number is 234-6243 or 234-7729.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Foreign Students in CNMI Schools

Recently, I have been hearing from various people who report a campaign of misinformation relating to the rights of foreign students in the public schools.

I have no idea whether there are rumors floating about or whether the concern is justified. However, it's always a good idea to know what the law is and what rights people have.

So this blog post is about the rights of foreign students to attend the CNMI public schools.

A mix of foreign and citizen students and teachers from the CNMI.

The basic rule is fairly simple: States (and territories, including the CNMI) cannot discriminate on the basis of immigration status in providing free, appropriate, public education for children. Basically, children have a right to such education. As applied here, any and all children (ages 6 to 16) in the CNMI are entitled to attend public schools.

The leading court case on the subject comes from the United States Supreme Court. Plyler vs. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982) held that even undocumented alien children were entitled to attend public schools and a Texas law that allowed otherwise was unconstitutional.

Justice Powell, in his concurring opinion, summarized the basic logic of the decision:

"...the interests relied upon by the State would seem to be insubstantial in view of the consequences to the State itself of wholly uneducated persons living indefinitely within its borders. By contrast, access to the public schools is made available to the children of lawful residents without regard to the temporary [457 U.S. 202, 240] nature of their residency in the particular Texas school district. The Court of Appeals and the District Courts that addressed these cases concluded that the classification could not satisfy even the bare requirements of rationality. "

The decision held the day with a slim majority of five to four. But it has not been overturned. It is still the law.

Public schools do not police immigration. Immigration is a matter for concern for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service), not for the CNMI Public School System.

Nor will public schools be reporting the immigration status of its students to the federal authorities. Student records are, for nearly all purposes, confidential. In most instances, the PSS should not even have the information about a student's immigration status.

Plyler vs. Doe created issues that are still being discussed, as shown in this 2007 University of Berkeley seminar. Issues about what happens to undocumented students after graduation; issues about English-proficiency classes; and continuing debate about the use of resources for non-citizens.

One interesting aspect of the debate is a finding that the percentage of illegal alien children in public schools today is about the same as it was when Plyler vs. Doe was decided. Another is the finding that the majority of teachers and administrators do not want to be concerned about a student's immigration status. Both of these findings (from the Berkeley seminar) support the continuing viability of Plyler vs. Doe.

And the courts continue to uphold the impact of Plyler vs. Doe. See, e.g. League of United Latin American Citizens vs. Wilson, 908 F. Supp. 755, 774, 785-786 (C.D. Cal. 1997).

Plyler vs. Doe was determined on the basis of the U.S. equal protection clause. That law applies in the CNMI. So foreign students, whether temporarily present with legal status, or residing indefinitely/permanently here with or without documented status, are entitled to free, appropriate, public education in the CNMI elementary, middle/junior, and high schools.

Undoubtedly as the U.S. continues to consider issues of immigration reform, the on-going vitality of Plyler vs. Doe will be considered; it highlights some of the core issues around immigration.

The change of CNMI's immigration from CNMI control to U.S. control does not change the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution; it does not change the rights of a foreign child to a free public education.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

CNMI Investor Permit

This has little to do with our usual MLSC clients, but it is the latest news in the federalization of our CNMI immigration, so I'm posting this communique from USCIS:

USCIS Update Sept. 11, 2009

Proposal Provides Status for Eligible Long-Term Investors in the CNMI During Transition Period

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will publish a proposed rule in the Sept. 14, 2009 Federal Register that would recognize a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) specific nonimmigrant investor visa classification. This “E-2 CNMI Investor” status is one of several CNMI specific provisions contained in the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (CNRA), which extends most provisions of federal U.S. immigration law to the CNMI.

These temporary provisions are proposed to provide for an orderly transition from the current CNMI permit system to the immigration laws of the U.S., to lessen potential effects on the CNMI economy, and to give foreign long-term investors time to identify and obtain appropriate U.S. immigrant or nonimmigrant status. The transition period will begin Nov. 28, 2009 and end on Dec. 31, 2014.

This proposed special status of E-2 investors would allow eligible CNMI investors to remain in the CNMI for the duration of the transition period under E-2 CNMI Investor status, and to exit and enter the CNMI with valid E-2 CNMI Investor visas. It is proposed that the E-2 CNMI Investor Visa be issued for two years and be renewable. Derivative visas would be available for spouses and children of the primary applicant.

In line with CNRA, this proposed classification includes “long-term investors”—so only those CNMI investor permits that mandated a fixed minimum threshold amount of investment and are renewable over a period of multiple years would be considered to be “long-term investor” statuses: the Long-Term Business Investor, the Foreign Investor, and the Retiree Investor. Other CNMI investor permits, including the 2-year non-renewable retiree investor program for Japanese and those with short- or regular-term business entry permits, may be eligible to apply for existing nonimmigrant classifications under the INA, such as B-1/B-2 visas.

USCIS proposes that, to be eligible, investors must have been admitted to the CNMI in long-term investor status under CNMI immigration law before the transition program effective date; have continuously maintained residence in the CNMI under long-term investor status; currently maintain the investment(s) that formed the basis for the CNMI long-term investor status; and are otherwise admissible to the United States under the INA.

USCIS proposes using existing Form I-129 (Petitioner for a Nonimmigrant Worker) with Supplement E, for requesting E-2 CNMI Investor status. The current processing fee is $320 plus an $80 biometrics fee.

USCIS encourages the public to submit comments on this proposal by Oct. 14, 2009. All submissions must include “USCIS” and “DHS Docket No. USCIS-2008-0035” and can be submitted in one of the following ways:
• Internet - at the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal:;
• E-mail to USCIS at and include “DHS Docket No. USCIS- 2008-0035” in subject line; or
• Mail/Hand Delivery/Courier - Paper, disk, or CD-ROM submissions to: Chief, Regulatory Management Division, DHS-USCIS, 111 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 3008, Washington, D.C. 20529. Reference “DHS Docket No. USCIS-2008-0035” on the correspondence. Contact telephone number is (202) 272-8377.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

MLSC's Back To School Project

Each year the Marianas Office of MLSC sponsors a "Back To School Project." We collect donations in cash and in-kind from local attorneys (and anyone else who wants to donate) and then distribute school supplies to needy children in grades one through 12.

This year our list of donors includes:
Lillian T. Ada
Ed Buckingham
Kelly Butcher
Omar Calimbas
Ian Catlett
Thomas E. Clifford
Committee to Elect Eric Atalig
Gloria Deltang
Estelle Hofschneider
James Holman
Rex Kosak
Jane Mack
Richard Pierce
Saipan Community School
Robert T. Torres
Vicente T. Salas
Esther M. San Nicolas
Randy Schmidt
Marcia K. Schultz

These generous contributors made it possible for the Marianas Office to distribute so far:
82 book bags, each containing basic supplies (binder, filler paper, folder, notebook, composition book, pencil case, pens & pencils; and grade-appropriate add-ons like ruler, glue and crayons; or protractor/compass set and graph paper; or white paper and highlighter)

6 bookbags with some bulk supplies to share (These went to one family with many kids in school.)


37 small supply kits (notebook, composition book, pens and pencils, extras if available)

We selected recipients from our database of clients, choosing families with the lowest income. We also took call-in requests and referrals from social service agencies. We sent some bags to Rota and Tinian for identified needy kids there. Obviously, there are many more kids we did not reach. But we're happy that we reached more than 100 kids in our community, with supplies to motivate and excite them about their return to school.

Thanks to everyone who made this project a success.

(We'll continue through this first week of school, if there are any others who want to make last-minute donations.)