DUMAGUETE CITY – Thousands of Filipino workers in Saipan risk displacement and worse, deportation due to new laws that affect their stay there, according to the highest-ranking Church official on the island, which is part of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Bishop Ryan Jimenez of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa in Saipan, disclosed at a late Monday afternoon press conference here that there were many fellow Filipinos or “kababayans” in Saipan facing risks of displacement of even deportation.
Labeled as “unlawful presence” by the U.S. immigration authorities, many of these Filipino workers have been in Saipan for many years but do not have the appropriate visa, according to Jimenez.
The problem is that their children were born there and are automatically U.S citizens, so the dilemma now is that these children cannot be separated from their parents as “the impacts would be devastating”, he pointed out.
Many Filipino migrant workers could no longer find employment there and do not have the capability to return to the Philippines, too, he said.
Some of them are church volunteers working in different capacities and “the least we can do is to help them”, he added.
There is a cap or limit by 2019 and unless the law is changed, the transitional visa will be eliminated, Jimenez said.
“So we’re really talking about more than 15,000 Filipinos who are about to be displaced”, he further said.
Bishop Jimenez, the first Filipino bishop of Chalan Kanoa, Saipan and from Larena, Siquijor, said he would always ask for God’s strength to lead him to where He wants him to be.
The Filipino bishop asked for prayers from the Catholic faithful here as he continues with his journey of serving God in the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa in Saipan, which has close ties with the Philippines considering it was part of the Diocese of Cebu in the olden days.
Aside from this, other challenges being faced by the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa in Saipan, include cases of “sexual abuse” by priests and bishops as well as the plight of illegal Chinese nationals working as construction workers there.
Bishop Jimenez disclosed the church that he heads there was facing bankruptcy in the even the cases would prosper as each case would involve US$ 5 million.
He arrived here Monday where he was given a warm welcome by the Diocese of Dumaguete and where he celebrated his first thanksgiving mass here as the bishop of Saipan.
The diocese in Saipan has about 40,000 parishioners, or comprising at least 80 percent of the island’s total population of some 50,000.