They've got muck; we've got rakes. TPM Muckraker

Schaffer Echoed DeLay on Mariana Immigration

"Based on our observations... we believe that the CNMI's system of immigration adjudication is not only grossly inadequate but, in many respects, particularly in the area of visa issuance, non-existent," the report said. The system, the report said, had resulted in "serious abuses." (You can read an excerpt from that report here.)

The report cited an example. A "taxi driver" on the islands had successfully obtained work permits for 160 Bangladeshis. The Bangladeshis spent "large sums of money" on human traffickers to get to the islands, bankrupting themselves and their families in the process, and then arrived to find that there were no jobs there. It was not a rare occurrence in a system that gave employers virtually total power over their employees, who could not change jobs upon coming to the islands.

A subsequent report by the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform was even harsher. Judging that "[l]arge-scale 'temporary' guestworker programs present inherent problems for liberal democracies," the report stated that the "foreign contract workers are easily exploited." No other country in the world had policies like the islands, the report found. When Michael Teitelbaum, a Republican appointee and one of the two commissioners who'd authored the report, testified to Congress about their findings, he said that the islands' system was a "diplomatic embarrassment to the United States." (You can read an excerpt from that report here.)

Both reports recommended that the islands' system be overhauled and gradually shifted to one conforming with U.S. immigration. It was a result that Abramoff was hired to fight, since the garment manufacturers there relied on the easily-exploitable foreign workers (the guest worker population actually outnumbered the U.S. citizens on the islands). House Republicans, particularly DeLay and Rep. Don Young (R-AK), successfully blocked such reform for years, but Congress finally followed that recommendation earlier this month.

Of course, none of this was or is unknown to Schaffer. In 1999, for instance, at the same House resources committee hearing where Teitelbaum testified, Schaffer had the opportunity to question a Bangladeshi who said that he'd been the victim of human traffickers. But rather than asking the man about his experience, Schaffer chose to interrogate him about whether he'd been paid by Interior officials to protest the working conditions there. Maybe if he hadn't stuck to Abramoff's playbook, he would have learned something.