The White House’s Office of Management and Budget completed on Tuesday the review of the long-awaited final rule on the Commonwealth-only transitional worker program, ahead of the Sept. 15 review period deadline.
Officials and community members said yesterday that they expect the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service to soon publish the regulations, with barely three months to go before Nov. 27.
Nov. 27, 2011 is the last day of the two-year period allowed under the federalization law wherein workers can still remain in the CNMI using a Commonwealth-issued permit.
After that, foreign workers need to have a U.S. employment visa such as a transitional CW visa or an H visa, or they could face deportation.
The White House provided an update on the status of its review of the worker regulations.
This information is available at http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eoReviewSearch.
It says the White House’s Office of Management and Budget received the regulations on June 15, and concluded its review on Aug. 9.
Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan said yesterday that the White House’s completion of its review will pave the way for DHS to soon publish the regulations.
“This is good news… It (rule) should be coming out sooner than we thought,” Sablan told Saipan Tribune yesterday morning.
Gov. Benigno R. Fitial is also “pleased to see the advancement in the process of promulgating the long awaited CW regulations,” said press secretary Angel Demapan.
“Given that the final rule has not been disclosed to the administration at this point, the administration is hopeful that DHS was able to take into consideration the recommendations of the local government,” Demapan added.
Sablan said having the regulations in place will help the whole CNMI.
“We need to start moving forward. This is good. This is good for business, this is good for the Northern Marianas. And it puts in place protocol on how to get the workers that we still need here and also move us forward in the transition period. This is a very anxious time for many of us,” he added.
The delegate reiterated that the CW regulations is entirely separate from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s recommendation to Congress to grant improved immigration status to foreign workers who have been in the CNMI for at least five years.
Sablan said the CW rule is also separate from his HR 1466, which seeks to grant CNMI-only resident status for limited groups of people in the CNMI.
The delegate said he again recently met with DHS officials before leaving Washington, D.C.
He said DHS has an implementation plan in place, and that plan includes sending officials and representatives to the CNMI for an outreach and educational sessions on the CW regulations.
The Saipan Chamber of Commerce, the largest business organization in the CNMI with some 150 members, is also looking forward to reading the regulations.
“Let’s read through the regulations and their comments to try and figure out what our next step will be,” Chamber president Douglas Brennan said.
Another from the business sector said waiting for the release of the CW regulations “is like waiting for a two-year delayed rebate check from the CNMI government. And we are supposed to be grateful when it’s finally released?”
Senate President Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota), for his part, said the White House’s completed review is “good news,” and is looking forward to reading the regulations.
‘Parole, advance parole’
Rabby Syed, president of the United Workers Movement-NMI, said it’s been a long wait for the release of the worker regulations.
“I am asking the worker community to be prepared while we are waiting for the rules. Once the rules are out, we need to do a lot more to continue our fight to have improved status for longterm nonresidents,” he said.
The United Workers Movement has long been pushing for improved immigration status, particularly a grant of U.S. citizenship for legal aliens who have been in the CNMI for many years.
Syed said the delegate had already made it clear that the CW regulations are separate from the issue of improved immigration status for legal aliens.
“We will need to be more organized,” he added.
The regulations are not yet posted in the Federal Register.
Syed said the workers’ group is hoping that once the CW regulations are published and CW visas are issued, nonresident workers will no longer be required to apply for parole and advance parole every time they need to temporarily exit the CNMI for emergency or vacation so that they can be allowed to reenter the CNMI.
“The advance parole costs $365 that workers need to pay. And if there’s emergency that they need to exit, they can’t process right away. We’ve asked DHS to please establish a program wherein they can issue the advance parole from here on Saipan, so that they don’t have to forward the application to Guam and then send it back to Saipan,” Syed said.
Boni Sagana, president of the Dekada Movement consists mostly of foreign workers, said yesterday that their members have expressed concern about the CNMI House of Representatives’ adoption of a resolution that, in essence, opposes Sablan’s HR 1466.
He said Dekada is now calling on its members who have relatives and friends who are in the United States mainland to start bringing the issue of HR 1466 to their respective congressmen.
“It’s now out of the CNMI government’s hands. The bill is now before U.S. congressmen. Those who have friends and relatives should start asking their congressmen to vote for Kilili’s HR1466,” he said.
HR 1466 proposes a “CNMI-only resident status” for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens as of May 8, 2008, and continuing to be on the islands; CNMI permanent residents; those born in the CNMI between Jan. 1, 1974, and Jan. 9, 1978; and the spouses or children, “as defined in section 101(b)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(b)(1)), of an alien described in subclauses (I) or (II).”