Saipan Chamber of Commerce president James T. Arenovski said the new omnibus bill—S.2739—currently pending at the U.S. Senate does not have a provision guaranteeing permanent residency to long-term guest workers in the Commonwealth.
In the “From the President” section of the Chamber newsletter, the president of Delta Management Corp. told members, “I thought it important to clarify that there is NO permanent residency language in the new S.2483 (the precursor of S.2739). It just doesn’t exist. Whether for or against, there seems to be 100 percent agreement that this bill is intended to and will reduce the guest worker numbers in the NMI.”
The Chamber president added that he has also written to Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee communications director Bill Wicker inviting him to clear up the committee’s “misrepresentations” directly with Chamber so that its members can get the facts on S.2739 straightened out.
Arenovski’s concerns stem from a comment made by Wicker that appeared in the March 19, 2008, issue of the Saipan Tribune that read: “We remain concerned that opponents of federalization continue to deliberately misinterpret and misinform the community about this legislation, to make it appear insensitive to CNMI concerns.”
In the same newsletter, Arenovski reported to Chamber members that he recently had a meeting with Philippine Consul General Wilfredo DLG. Maximo and he was able to pass on to him what he learned from his trips in Washington, D.C., about the impending federalization of the CNMI and what was in store for Filipino nonresident workers in the islands.
“Much to his and his staff’s credit, the Chamber has been asked to join a forum to provide some information and then answer questions for Filipino overseas workers employed by the Chamber businesses. If this works well we will provide the forum to other organizations,” he said.
Arenovski added that the intent of the forums is to focus on the reality of the mandated reduction in guest workers “and what real effects the proposed legislation may have on businesses.”
He added, “I have no intention to engage in arguments over people’s interpretations, but will present to my best ability what the Chamber has found out. I will leave residency and other issues not addressed in the bill for others.”
S.2739—or the “Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008” —adopted entirely the provisions of H.R. 3079, which was passed by the House of Representatives on Dec. 11, 2007. It was crafted by Rep. Donna Christensen of U.S. Virgin Islands.
Like S.2483, the new omnibus bill is a collection of approximately 50 individual bills under the jurisdiction of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
Title VII of S.2739 would extend immigration law and create a federally run guest-worker program in the CNMI (Subtitle A). It would also give the CNMI a delegate in the House (Subtitle B) with limited voting powers. Currently, all U.S. possessions except the CNMI have a delegate in Congress.
The provision, however, does not include the controversial measure granting improved status to long-term guest workers in the CNMI. Instead, the provision pertaining to CNMI immigration in the new omnibus bill requires the U.S. administration to submit to Congress within two years after S.2739’s enactment a report with recommendations on how to grant the guest workers a more permanent status.