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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Time ticks for hundreds of parents of minor US citizens to leave NMI

Hundreds of nonresident parents of minor U.S. citizen children have less than 40 days before the Dec. 31, 2012, expiration of their parole or they will no longer have lawful status to remain in the CNMI. Some of them are hoping that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will have another Thanksgiving gift for them—this time at least a one-year parole extension.

During Thanksgiving last year, USCIS announced it will consider granting, on a case-by-case basis, one-year parole to those covered in Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan’s (Ind-MP) H.R. 1466.

H.R. 1466 seeks a grant of CNMI-only resident status for four groups of people, including immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who were on the islands as of May 8, 2008, and continuing to be on the islands.

“It would be a great Thanksgiving gift if USCIS extends my parole. My daughters are only 2 and 4 years old. If I am sent home, it would be difficult for the whole family especially my children,” Jane Donesa, 37, told Saipan Tribune yesterday.

Donesa said she applied for an employment authorization document in September, which was released in October but is also expiring on Dec. 31. She said employers prefer those with EADs valid for at least a year.

A native of the Philippines, Donesa came to Saipan in 2007 supposedly to work at a garment factory but at the time, garment factories were already closing down. She ended up working as a house helper and lost that job because of economic reasons, she said.

“If they could only give us at least one-year extension, I know I could find a fulltime job by then,” she said.

Violy Dawana said she’s been praying that USCIS will extend her parole, for the sake of her 16-year-old son.

She said a one-year extension would make a big difference to their family’s life.

“If there’s no extension, we cannot do anything. I may have to leave my son with friends until he at least finishes 10th grade, then he would have to stay with me in the Philippines,” said Dawana.

Sablan said he is “hopeful” that there would be parole extension for these individuals.

“We continue to reach out to DHS [Department of Homeland Security] but we haven’t received any confirmation. I believe the decision is still being vetted. I prefer that we wait until they issue an announcement. But I don’t see any reason why they cannot extend the parole,” the delegate said.

Rene Reyes, president of Marianas Advocates for Humanitarian Affairs Ltd. or Mahal, said he’s also appealing to USCIS to extend the parole for those covered by H.R. 1466 until action on an immigration bill about the CNMI is passed and become law.

“We’re also hoping that all types of parole expiring on Dec. 31 will be extended, not only those covered in HR 1466,” he said.

A parole allows certain foreign individuals to maintain legal status in the CNMI.

Parole is also given on a case-by-case basis to foreign workers whose transitional Commonwealth-only worker permit applications remain pending. This parole also expires on Dec. 31, 2012.

Reyes said he’s hoping that Sablan would amend H.R. 1466 to include improved immigration status to long-term guest workers in the CNMI.

Right after the Nov. 6 elections, Sablan said re-elected President Barack Obama’s focus on immigration reform will be good for the CNMI, adding that the immigration status of long-term foreign workers in the CNMI will continue to be on his agenda in the 113th Congress, including the re-introduction of a “more fair” or a “broader” version of his H.R. 1466.

Sablan said that a legislation that’s been developed over time has a “place holder” that’s specific to the CNMI. This means there’s a provision in this particular immigration bill specific only to the CNMI.

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