Kilili urges Torres to back legacy worker bill

Aug 6, 2018

Saipan Tribune - Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) is urging Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to support his bill, which would give qualified CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program visa holders a pathway toward U.S. permanent residency.

In a letter dated Aug. 1, 2018, Sablan solicited the support of Torres for his H.R. 6578, which would give permanent CNMI status to long-term workers who have held CW-1 visas since 2015, with the option to become U.S. permanent residents after five years.

The bill also provides permanent status to E-2C investors who were originally admitted to the Marianas under Commonwealth immigration law.

“The Marianas…has a pool of some 2,350 workers who have been contributing to our economy—and to our community—since 2015. These individuals by and large want to remain in the Marianas and want to continue adding value to our economy,” Sablan noted in his letter. “The legislation I have now introduced will make that possible and, as a result, help stabilize our workforce, making the Marianas less dependent on foreign labor.”

Torres declined to comment Thursday when asked about the matter, but said he would be issuing a statement soon.

Torres also declined to comment on Sablan’s introduction of H.R. 6578, which the delegate noted came two days after the enactment of the NMI U.S. Workforce Act of 2018, which essentially extended the CW-1 program beyond Dec. 31, 2019, and increased the maximum number of foreign worker slots for fiscal year 2019.

Sablan reminded Torres in his letter that during the Section 902 consultations with the Obama administration, the governor as the Special Representative supported Sablan’s position of giving permanent status to long-term workers in the Marianas.

“Now, the Northern Mariana Islands Workforce Stabilization Act [H.R. 6578] continues my pursuit of this goal. I ask you for your official and formal statement of support for my legislation and the policy goal it represents,” Sablan wrote to Torres.

Sablan added that he recognizes that within this current U.S. Congress, where Republicans are in the majority, he remains hopeful that with the incoming U.S. Congress in January 2019—which he believes would be majority Democratic—his bill would be entertained.

“In fact, both Rep. Raul Grijalva, who would be chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who would chair the Subcommittee on Immigration, are co-sponsors of my bill,” noted Sablan.

Grijalva represents Arizona while Lofgren represents California, and both are Democrats.

“With the support of these leaders and a new majority in the next Congress, I believe we can pass the Northern Marianas Islands Workforce Stabilization Act and give our long-term workers and investors the permanent status they have deserved,” he said.