DHS Excels at Locking the Barn Door Long After the Horse Has Been Stolen

CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES — The Department of Homeland Security has shown, once again, that it is very good at locking the barn door, not only after the horse has been stolen, but long after the stolen horse has died of old age. In short, it occasionally takes appropriate action, but years — even decades — too late.

The latest example comes from America’s far, far West, the Island of Tinian, in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, just north of Guam in the Pacific. That is the location of the Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino; the casino has been closed for several months, and the adjacent hotel is operating, but just barely.

DHS is currently defending, in federal court in the Marianas, its decision not to allow foreign temporary workers to be employed by the casino. DHS had ruled that the casino was “not engaged in a legitimate business” and hence was not qualified to employ the foreign workers.

The Commonwealth has only been under U.S. immigration law since 2009; previously it ran its own migration system, which allowed for comparably enormous numbers of nonimmigrant workers who were badly exploited and who were forever barred from securing either green card or citizen status. A remnant of that system still exists, but under DHS supervision; the current system is designed to meet the interests of employers, not those of either the foreign workers or members of the local indigenous labor force.

Back to the casino. It was in trouble when I, then a U.S. Department of the Interior employee working with our island territories, looked in on it 18 years ago. Big and garish, with most of the glitz of its Las Vegas sister institutions, it was virtually empty at the time; it is, after all, on a lightly populated island that is unreachable by direct international flights. (You have to land on nearby Saipan and then take a smallish plane to reach Tinian; when I did so, I sat in the co-pilot’s seat with, appropriately, the controls locked in front of me.)

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