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Happy Days for Saipan in the Northern Marianas Islands
Wednesday, November 04, 2009 - 11:46 PM
An anonymous Saipan lawyer comments that the new DHS transitional worker regulations are "not friendly" according to the Marianas Variety column below.  I disagree and think they address the intent of the law.  The regulations will reduce the number of alien workers over time, offering more opportunity to local youth, are flexible, will reduce fraud from the broken CNMI system, will secure our borders, reduce drugs and contraband flowing through the CNMI, and stabilize the CNMI, which will increase investor confidence over time.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009 00:00 By Gemma Q. Casas & Junhan B. Todeno - For Variety .

THE U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Services yesterday announced its “interim final regulations” for guest workers, which a local lawyer described as “not friendly.”

“Imagine people looking back with nostalgia on the ‘good old days’ under the commonwealth system!” said the lawyer who declined to be identified.

Under the regulations, foreign workers seeking to exit and reenter the CNMI to resume their employment must secure a CW status from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and a CW1 visa from U.S. embassies or consulates in their home countries under the transitional worker program for the CNMI that will take effect on Nov. 28 when U.S. immigration law is extended to the islands.

David Gulick, district director of the USCIS, said the new CW-1 non immigrant visa classification does not entitle any foreign worker to travel anywhere in the United States as it is strictly and exclusively for the CNMI.

Under the regulations, employers must submit CW-1 applications for their foreign workers to the USCIS California Service Center.

The application fee is $320 and there is a separate fee of $150 which will go to the CNMI government’s education funds.(Right-Blue sunset NMI)

Biometrics must be performed at the USCIS Saipan office for a fee of $80, which can be waived if applicants can show an inability to pay.

Gulick said the CW application is typically processed within a 60-day period.

Janna Evans, regional lead for community relations of USCIS Western Region, said they are ready to answer more questions this Friday at American Memorial Park’s from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Gulick said the numerical limit for the CW-1 non immigrant status will be 22,417 but this will be gradually reduced to zero by the end of the transition period or Dec. 31, 2014.
(Below - Sunset on Saipan)

“The CW-1 status is valid only for a year. Non-immigrants in good standing may obtain a one-year extension subject to the availability under the numerical cap,” the USCIS said in a media release.

U.S. Congressman Gregorio C. Sablan made the following preliminary comment regarding the proposed rules:

“Public Law 110-229 [the federalization law] requires that the transitional worker program be designed to promote the maximum use of U.S. workers. The law is also supposed to prevent wages and working conditions for our local residents from getting worse because of competition from alien workers.

“It is widely recognized that at the present time we do not have enough local residents to fill all the jobs in our economy. So we still need alien workers.

“But thinking ahead, 5-10 years, we are going to want to see fewer alien workers and many more CNMI citizens, U.S. permanent residents, and people from the Freely Associated States filling the jobs in our economy.

“So I will be examining the rule that was issued today very carefully to make sure that in the long run the result will be more jobs and better paying jobs for local people. That is my goal.”

Leaders of guest worker groups yesterday said they will “thoroughly” review the 63-page regulations.

Rene Reyes, Coalition of United Workers president, said they have to translate some portions of the regulations.

Itos Feliciano, Human Dignity Movement president, said they and the other groups will jointly comment on the regulations.

All written comments must be submitted on or before 30 days from the regulations’ date of publication in the Federal Registrar.

Boni Sagana, Dekada Movement president, said the two-year umbrella permit issued by the CNMI Department of Labor will help guest workers maintain a legal status during the transition period.

He said their group’s legal counsel, Steve Woodruff, is assisting them in assessing the federal regulations.

Raby Syed, United Workers Movement, NMI president, said they want to hear the opinions, views and comments of as many guest workers as possible.

He is encouraging all guest workers to attend the forum at American Memorial Park on Friday to learn about the federal transitional worker program.

I think the comments and written recommendations of David Cohen, Tina Sablan, Wendy Doromal, and Steve Woodruff are evident throughout the document and means DHS certainly listened to our intelligent citizens in preparing this comprehensive set of regulations.  It is equally evident that DHS dismissed the interests of Governor Fitial and his status-quo group clinging for hopes to continue the age old system of two tiered servitude in the Northern Marianas Islands.

Ron Hodges
Northern Marianas Islands
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