U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has so far approved the Commonwealth-only worker petitions for 5,347 foreign workers, even as worker groups in the CNMI have set a one-month vigil to oppose the extension of the transitional worker program beyond Dec. 31, 2014. The worker groups are asking instead for a grant of improved status to long-term legal aliens before the end of 2014.
Close to 12,000 foreign workers are covered by total CW-1 petitions filed with USCIS.
But there were also some 3,000 request for evidence issued, and the information requested need to be submitted before USCIS could make a final decision on the CW-1 petitions.
USCIS regional media manager Marie Therese Sebrechts said yesterday that from Oct. 7, 2011 through July 31, 2012, “a total of 3,254 petitions were approved consisting of 5,347 beneficiaries.”
She said there were also a total of 101 petitions denied, consisting of 123 beneficiaries.
Sebrechts said the denials include the following reasons: Withdrawal of petition; absence of evidence that the petitioner (employer) meets one of the eligibility requirements; absence of evidence that the beneficiary (worker) was lawfully present in the CNMI at the time of filing; and abandonment, wherein the petitioner or employer did not respond to a USCIS request for evidence in the allotted time frame of 12 weeks.
Rabby Syed, president of the United Workers Movement-NMI said yesterday that he hopes that more CW permits will be issued soon.
USCIS has issued approximately 3,000 RFEs for I-129CW petitions for two reasons.
Sebrechts said “some petitioners did not include documentation showing that they are doing business, that they have considered all available U.S. workers for the job position, and/or that they are offering employment that is consistent with the nature of their business.”
Some did not include evidence of the beneficiary's lawful presence in the CNMI, she said.
“Some of these requests are still outstanding. It is not possible to make a final decision on these petitions until the employer provides a response,” Sebrecths said.
She clarified that processing time doesn't get shorter or longer.
“Our officers cannot adjudicate a petition until they have all the information, which includes the results of biometrics and the needed evidence. What I said is that we are able to move forward on processing applications now that the biometrics were captured and results are coming in on so many of the petitions and that we have received responses to more than 50 percent of the RFEs. However, the pace of the final adjudication (approval or denial) is largely dependent upon the petitioner's responsiveness to our requests for evidence,” the USCIS regional media manager said.
She also said USCIS will continue to find solutions for situations within the possibility of immigration law as they have demonstrated.
Meanwhile, United Workers Movement-NMI and other worker groups plan to hold a one-month vigil starting on Aug. 15, to oppose the extension of the transition period.
Syed said the peaceful vigil will be held in front of the USCIS office in Garapan.
“During the vigil, we will also invite workers to sign petition and letters to the secretaries of the U.S. Department of Labor and Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Interior Department, Gov. Benigno Fitial, and our delegate Kilili Sablan, requesting them to consider our position-that we are not supporting an extension of the transition period. What we're asking is grant of improved status by Dec. 31, 2014,” Syed said.
The Fitial administration and the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, among other entities, support extending the transition period, citing the CNMI's continued need to have access to foreign workers because there are still not much U.S. workers available to help run the tourism-based economy.