The administration of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres announced yesterday that it would form two working groups to separately address issues of foreign labor workforce and U.S military proposed training in the CNMI as part of upcoming consultations with the White House.
“This administration is continuing the critical task of creating a panel that draws from both the public and private sectors. The panel itself will consist of highly qualified and knowledgeable officials in the fields of public policy, business, academia, and immigration,” Torres officials said in their statement. “Because of the comprehensive nature of the discussions surrounding both the CW program and the proposed military projects respectively, we are looking into creating two working groups to formalize detailed discussion points for the consultations.”
“The collective goal is to present to the federal government one comprehensive report that features recommendations from each of the two working groups,” it added.
The upcoming talks come pursuant to Section 902 of the CNMI Covenant, which allows the CNMI to request consultation on issues affecting the local-federal relationship.
Last Friday, President Barack Obama designated Esther Kia’aina, assistant secretary of the U.S Department of Interior for Insular Affairs, to be his special representative for these talks, formally green-lighting the request for consultation the late governor Eloy S. Ions made last October.
The talks comes as local officials grapple for the first time with a foreign labor pool that has breached its federally mandated cap of contract workers allowed in the NMI this year.
The 902 discussions are expected to address the impending expiration of this program, the lifeblood of the local economy, in 2019.
“We understand the significance of these unique consultations with the federal government and remain hopeful that it produces real solutions for our Commonwealth. We will continue to do whatever we can to address the concerns of our business community, keep families with CW workers together, and preserve the natural integrity of our islands for generations to come,” the administration said.