Tinian Chamber backs Kilili’s HR 560

Mar 11, 2021

The Tinian Chamber of Commerce has expressed support for Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan’s (Ind-MP) H.R. 560 or the “Northern Mariana Islands Legal Residents Relief Act of 2021” that has been incorporated into President Joe Biden’s comprehensive immigration bill.

In a letter addressed to Sablan yesterday and signed by Tinian Chamber of Commerce board of directors vice chair Don A. Farrell, the Tinian Chamber conveyed its support for H.R. 560, which proposes to extend Marianas permanent residence status to long-term foreign workers and investors in the CNMI.

Specifically, Sablan’s bill seeks to grant permanent residency status in the Marianas to persons that were admitted to the Commonwealth as a Commonwealth-Only Transitional Worker in fiscal year 2015 and subsequent fiscal years, beginning before the date of the enactment of the NMI U.S. Workforce Act of 2108 or Public Law 115-218 or persons that have resided in the NMI as an investor under the Commonwealth Immigration Law and or presently a resident classified as a CNMI-only nonimmigrant under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

These amendments are in conjunction with President Joseph R. Biden’s new immigration reform bill called the “U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021” this month, which aims to provide an earned path to citizenship. One provision states that a lawful prospective immigrant could become eligible for permanent residence after at least five years of prospective status and that prospective applicants would need to have been in the United States before 2021.

The letter states that many CW-1 workers have been on Tinian for many years and are known as good people and valuable members of the community, have children who were born here, and some have married into local families. “We have found them to be good, honest, hardworking residents of our island and hope they will remain here as long as they wish,” the letter said. “…It is wrong for them, their families, and their employers to wait, anxiously, for their papers to be renewed annually. ….Although the COVID-19 pandemic has set back our economy significantly, we will rebuild that economy and will need these loyal and faithful employees to support our regrowth, not just this year, but for the years to come. Your legislation will help relieve this problem.”

The Tinian Chamber said these workers have suffered many hardships—Super Typhoon Yutu, the current pandemic, and the changing immigration laws and regulations of U.S. Citizenship Immigration System and the handling of labor laws by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security—that have left employees and business owners in constant stress.

“…The USCIS reduced the quota to 9,998 for [fiscal year] 2018, which devastated businesses in the Northern Mariana Islands. U.S. Congress had to intervene (Workforce Act of 2018) and increase the quota to 13,000 for FY 2019. …USCIS has continued to require the foreign employees to leave within 10 days like they were criminals if their work permits expire. Businesses must submit all their financial information and business licenses several times a year and of course it has to be submitted by regular mail, not at the website and no e-mail.”