End these idiotic policies that stifle business and job growth, only to breed bribery and corruption

By Mabel Doge Luhan

I was playing “Alcoholic or Schizophrenic?” while reading the Marianas Variety comments section and a thought came: why does the CNMI require immigration status in order for people to drive?

For all of our usual supposed disdain for federal regulation, why in this area do we actually kowtow to a federal determination of immigration status when deciding the unrelated matter of local eligibility for a driver’s license?

“Because they’re illegal!” a voodoo priest from Wisconsin will yell, while changing his name to evade his own criminal record. There are two problems with that. First, presence in the US that’s not allowed by immigration law is generally a civil violation, not a crime. The vast majority of “overstayers” in the CNMI are exactly that: overstayers. And it’s not a crime to overstay, no matter what they tell you at voodoo law school. And second, no US jurisdiction has ever used civil or criminal violations as a reason to deny someone a driver’s license. You can drive if you’re a convicted murderer. And overstaying, unlike murder or taking bribes from a casino, is not a crime.

If we’re so intent on stigmatizing people who have broken the rules, why not go after all the tax cheats in the CNMI? You do realize that bribes, gambling winnings, raffle prizes, real estate sales, payments for work of any kind, and $12.95 Shirley’s lunches are all taxable income, and should be reported and taxed, right? Going after violators of this law would actually help the CNMI, instead of pointlessly punishing people who have victimlessly violated immigration regulations nobody likes.

You know that cockfighting and running a gambling ring are both federal felonies, right? And both happen out in the open in As Lito every Sunday afternoon. And those people are still driving.

Running a “lucky raffle” or “mystery giveaway” in your group chat is a federal felony. Price-fixing is a federal felony as well, and Saipan’s grocery store and hotel owners are still driving, aren’t they? Not to mention what a big deal it is criminally to be distilling liquor, even for your own use. If you’ve ever made tuba, you’re “an illegal” — and one who’s committed a felony, not just a civil violation.

So why doesn’t applying for a driver’s license require showing that you’ve never made tuba, never participated in a group chat raffle, and never been to a cockfight? We are serious about the law, aren’t we?

I’ll tell you why, actually. Before 2001 — when I was barely a hundred years old — nobody cared about immigration status for getting a driver’s license. Then 9/11 happened. All the 9/11 participants had perfectly valid US immigration status. But politicians needed to “do something,” and fast, to reassure people that 9/11 would never happen again. So they started searching our shoes, measuring our water bottles, and X-raying our cockrings. And requiring immigration status for a driver’s license. Even though, again, all the 9/11 plotters had immigration status, and even though a driver’s license isn’t required for boarding an airplane.

So now we have this ridiculous situation where people without immigration status can’t get licenses. In the CNMI, these are the people who keep all the low-level jobs going: I assure you, these are jobs that your cousin who’s looking to make $75K/year as special assistant for achakmas won’t be interested in.

And in this situation, those people in those low-level jobs have three choices. They can drive illegally — without insurance, and without legal repercussions for violations. Or they can pay for taxis to get to work — sacrificing an hour or two of wages every day just to get to and from work. Or they can just not work, and survive by farming, stealing, or making babies for WIC — none of which is good for our economy.

Security concerns? The biggest US states, including California and New York, allow people without immigration status to get driver’s licenses. The licenses are marked “Not For Real ID Purposes.” There go your security concerns.

Contrary to the sentiment of the Marianas Variety comments section crowd, we need those people without status right here in the Marianas. They do necessary jobs. They contribute to the economy. They generally don’t pay income taxes, but 1) the vast majority of people in the CNMI don’t pay income taxes, 2) at their usual income levels, undocumented folks would usually be paying no or negative income taxes anyway, 3) they pay all other taxes, such as excise taxes and BGRT on everything they buy.

What else? We need to stop requiring a “business license” in order to pay taxes for self-employed income. Right now, even if an undocumented person wanted to pay income taxes on their income driving a taxi or doing yard work or whatever, they couldn’t, because CNMI Revenue will not take your money if you don’t have a business license — and getting a business license is too difficult for many US citizens in the Marianas, not to mention undocumented people with limited English.

And we need to stop the price-fixing racket that is the CNMI’s “legal” taxis. The “illegal” taxis are a million times better, and we all know it. Let them operate openly, drive legally, and pay taxes.

The biggest opponents of these ideas will be the Bonis and Juanitas of the islands: those who profit from the current state of things, those who take money to circumvent rules we shouldn’t have in the first place. They are always the loudest voices against cutting back the regulations that are precision-engineered to create government jobs, contracts, and bribe opportunities.

So do we want our islands to be more like California and New York? Do we want a better-functioning economy, and fewer opportunities for parasites like Boni and Juanita to profit from poor people? Do we want taxis that don’t gouge tourists, and businesses that can open without shakedowns from a dozen useless agencies?

Then get rid of the immigration status requirements for a driver’s license. Get rid of the “legal” taxi mafia. And let people pay taxes on their business without needing to stand in lines and pay bribes for a “business license.”

Even my falcons agree.


Mabel Doge Luhan is a rootless cosmopolitan and a woman of loose morals. She resides in Kagman V, where she pursues her passions of crocheting, beatboxing, and falconry.


  • You are making sense, Mable. On the taxi issue though, I guess all they need to do is to register as an operator, so revenue and tax are aware of their operation and are expected to pay their fair share of tax.

      • Joaquin Romolor

          11/07/2023 at 5:41 AM

        I will start reading Kandit News (light) because they are the true voice of US-CNMI no more Saipan Tribune or Marianas variety for Me. Plus Ms. M Table tell it like it is! good news. keep it up Ms. M comedian. Love this Kandit News groups 23/7 -365. great job.

      • Joaquin Romolor

          11/07/2023 at 5:43 AM

        I will start reading Kandit News (light) because they are the true voice of US-CNMI no more Saipan Tribune or Marianas variety for Me. Plus Ms. M Table tell it like it is! good news. keep it up Ms. M comedian. Love this Kandit News groups 24/7 -365. great job.

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