THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - August 4, 2017

Aug 6, 2017

In this issue:


Senate okays more CW permits

The Senate passed my bill making 350 more CW foreign worker permits available for fiscal year 2017 on top of the existing 12,998 permits. H.R. 339 also puts more money into the fund for training U.S. workers for jobs in the Marianas economy and bars future use of CW permits for temporary construction workers. The surge of construction workers using CW permits (3,443 in FY16) forced hospital nurses to leave the Marianas and many local businesses to lose their long-time foreign workers. My bill prevents that from repeating. And an unlimited number of workers for construction projects can be hired using the H2B visa.

Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) amended the bill, setting the number of extra permits at 350 and setting aside at least 60 for healthcare workers and at least 10 for power plant operators — two occupations critical to public safety in the Marianas. Getting more CW permits and setting aside some for the most important jobs were policies that the Commonwealth government and the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation asked for. Also important is adding more money to the $9.9 million the Commonwealth has already received to train local workers. According to the Government Accountability Office, between 2010, when the CW program went into effect, and 2015, 1,182 U.S. workers joined the Marianas labor force. Because the bill was amended, the House must now approve it again before it goes to the President for signature into law.

$736K to prevent youth suicide

The Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation is receiving $735,699 in federal funds for programs to prevent youth suicide. The discretionary grant, awarded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is intended to touch the lives of young people affected by alcohol and drug addictions. CHCC is one of about 800 state and local governments, hospitals, universities and colleges, and nonprofit groups expected to get the grant this year. The five-year award — from fiscal year 2017 to 2022 — does not require a match from the Commonwealth government. Congratulations, CHCC.

Gates Scholarhips will continue

Gates Millennium Scholarships have changed the lives of young people in the Marianas and throughout America, since Bill and Melinda Gates began the program in 1999 with a $1 billion donation. In the class of 2016 alone, eleven students from the Marianas won the full tuition scholarships to college. One of our GMS scholars, Chelsea King is studying at Stanford and updated me on the future of the program. Chelsea was kind enough to allow me to share her note with you:

Dear Congressman Sablan,
   I know you have been concerned about the end of the Gates Millennium Scholars program, a scholarship that has meant so much to my persistence and retention at Stanford University and to so many other students from the Marianas.
   I am very delighted to report to you that there is a new scholarship program offered by Bill Gates, but it simply takes a different name: The Gates Scholarship. This scholarship fund is more competitive than the Gates Millennium, given that it only selects 300 students instead of 1,000. Nonetheless, it is still an opportunity.
    The description of the program is as follows:
    "The Gates Scholarship is a highly selective, full scholarship for exceptional, Pell-eligible, minority, high school seniors. Starting in 2018, the scholarship will be awarded to 300 top student leaders each year with the intent of promoting their academic excellence through college graduation, and providing them the opportunity to reach their full potential."
   Eligibility requirements meet the same exact criteria as the Gates Millennium Scholarship. More information can be found at the following website:
   I hope you will be able to spread the word to others in the Marianas. My Gates Scholarship has meant so much to me and I would like students from our islands to know that this wonderful opportunity continues.
                                                         — Chelsea Arlene Medina King

Chelsea, we are spreading the word! Thanks for the update.

National eyes on shark fin bill

“Now, in the nick of time, bipartisan groups of Senators and Representatives are pursuing life-saving legislation to prohibit the import, export and trade in shark fins,” wrote the heads of The Humane Society and Sea World in Newsweek this week. They are supporting the legislation I authored based on the Commonwealth law that bans the commercial shark fin trade. The Marianas were the first U.S. insular area to end the trade. Guam and American Samoa followed our lead. Eleven states also now have laws on the books. House Foreign Affairs Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-California) and I introduced H.R. 1456 when Congress opened in January and already we have 147 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle. Thanks to the Humane Society and Sea World for supporting my bill. And kudos to former Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House Diego T. Benavente, who wrote the Marianas law and whose work we are building upon.

Internships for Pacific Islander

The Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) is offering fall internships to learn about legislative work in Washington, D.C. The program is twelve weeks long and interns are assigned to congressional offices or federal agencies. There is a $3,750 stipend and a round trip ticket to DC. Housing is not included. The program helps interns develop political involvement and leadership skills. Students currently enrolled in college and recent graduates are eligible to apply. They must be of 18 years by September 1, 2017. A cover letter, resume, and writing sample are required. An official transcript and two letters of recommendation are needed as well. The deadline is August 11, 2017. For more information, go to




Legislative Highlights


The House is on recess for the August District Work Period.