Saipan sweatshop workers unwillingly repatriated.
Following the out-of-court settlement of a lawsuit against 27
garment manufacturers who operated sweatshops in Saipan (see story in
Tok Blong Pasifik, Vol 2, No. 1), some of the 30,000 affected factory
workers are now unemployed. Many of the workers chose to return to their
countries of origin and were eligible for up to $3,000 in travel costs
under the terms of the settlement. However, some of the garment workers
have lived in the US commonwealth of Saipan since the 1980s and have
elected to remain in residence. Despite American federal laws that
permit a person legally residing in the United States for at least five
years to apply for permanent residency, local government officials have
declared that all unemployed garment workers are to be
"repatriated" to their original countries of residence.
Although many of these long-time residents have appealed to the
government to remain in the country, a May 2004 list named 434 workers
who had been identified by the government for deportation.