Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) said yesterday that his office is now working on legislative language that will address the status of legal and documented third-country nationals in the CNMI once a national immigration reform bill is written.
“We anticipate that our own particular legislative proposal will be a part of legislation that Congress will eventually pass and the President can sign into law,” Sablan told Saipan Tribune.
Nonresident worker groups separately said yesterday that the CNMI's long-term, legal foreign workers should not be left out at a time when Congress and the Obama administration are now leaning toward giving pathways to citizenship to some 11 million undocumented aliens in the U.S. mainland.
President Barack Obama will deliver a speech highlighting immigration reform in Las Vegas Tuesday (Wednesday, CNMI time).
Sablan said he and others are looking forward to the president's speech on immigration.
Sablan's public investiture in the CNMI will be held this morning, for his third term as the CNMI's first and so far only nonvoting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Carlito Marquez, an alien worker advocate on Saipan, said yesterday that recent developments related to national immigration reform should give renewed hope to long-term legal alien workers in the CNMI.
He said it's welcome news that this early in Obama's second term, immigration reform is being worked on.
“And I hope that Kilili will push for his new version of HR 1466, very timely, with the changes in the Office of Insular Affairs and labor. I guess the reason why immigration reform wasn't moving in the past years was that borders were not secured yet. Now that they are, I hope immigration reform will really move but maybe with threshold,” Marquez said.
Bonifacio Sagana, president of Dekada Movement, said U.S. lawmakers should be made aware that there are thousands of legal foreign workers working for years and decades on U.S. soil-in the CNMI-that have long been deprived of improved immigration status.
“And this is the best time for Mr. Kilili Sablan to get this message to his colleagues in Congress who are willing to give pathway to citizenship to millions of illegal aliens in the U.S.,” Sagana said in a phone interview.
Sablan has been working on the matter.
“We have been working on legislative language that we want included once a bill is written, either in the Senate or the House, or from the Administration, that will address the status of legal and documented third-country nationals here in the Northern Mariana Islands,” he said.
Florida-based human rights advocate and former CNMI teacher Wendy Doromal said yesterday that “now is the time to educate members of Congress across party lines of the plight of the legal, long-term foreign workers and their urgent need for permanent residency status.”
This comes at a time when the transitional Commonwealth-only worker program is ending on Dec. 31, 2014.
A bipartisan working team of U.S. senators has just released a four-page bipartisan framework on comprehensive immigration reform.
Senators working on the bill include Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Richard Durbin (D-IL), John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Michael F. Bennet (D-CO).
Sablan said this bipartisan Senate immigration blueprint “is a positive step.”
He said the bipartisan blueprint's tough but fair approach provides a foundation for the legislation that is needed.
“It is a good first step but there are still lots of work that needs to be done before people can sign on the dotted lines. But this is a workable outline, although the pathway to citizenship part will be the most difficult sticking point,” he added.
This bipartisan Senate immigration blueprint has four legislative bases:
1. Create a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required;
2. Reform our legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families;
3. Create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers; and,
4. Establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation's workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, of which Sablan is a member, is also committed to fighting for principled, comprehensive immigration reform.
It recently released its framework that includes requiring the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to register with the federal government, submit to fingerprinting and a criminal background check, learn English and American civics, and pay taxes to contribute fully and legally to the economy and earn a path to permanent residency and eventual citizenship.
It also includes ending the exploitation of U.S. and immigrant workers by providing sufficient, safe, and legal avenues for foreign workers to fill legitimate gaps in the workforce, with full labor rights, protection from discrimination, and a reasonable path to permanency that lifts up wages and working conditions for both native and foreign-born workers and their families.