Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) told Saipan Tribune yesterday that U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-California) planned immigration reform bill will include a CNMI-specific provision that was also in the U.S. Senate-passed S. 744 in late June.
That provision provides a pathway to citizenship for thousands of long-term, legal foreign workers and other groups of aliens in the CNMI.
“It has the same [CNMI] language as in S. 744. The Pelosi bill will be offered any time now,” said Sablan, who worked for years to address the immigration status of long-term legal aliens in the CNMI.
He said he has not seen a draft copy of the bill but he was assured of the CNMI-specific provision’s inclusion.
The Republican-controlled U.S. House has not taken up S. 744 since June.
S. 744 seeks to reform the nation’s immigration system for the first time in a generation, involving spending tens of billions of dollars to fortify security along the U.S. southern border and offering a pathway to citizenship to some 11 million undocumented aliens already in the United States.
House Republicans are keen to approve piecemeal bills focused on tightening border security.
The House’s Democrats would have Pelosi’s strategy, which reportedly combines S. 744 with a bipartisan border-security bill from the House Homeland Security to draw support from as many House members as possible.
“I believe that if Speaker [John] Boehner brings S. 744 to the floor, it would have enough votes to pass,” Sablan said.
But just the same, the delegate remains “cautiously optimistic” about the prospects for comprehensive immigration reform.
Bonifacio Sagana, Dekada Movement president, said if it is indeed true that Pelosi would introduce an immigration reform bill, he is more than hopeful that a CNMI provision will be included.
“Based on Pelosis’s previous comments, I believe she understands the CNMI situation,” he said.
The CNMI lost control of its immigration pursuant to U.S. Public Law 110-229, the Consolidated Natural Resources Act signed in 2008.
Every year, thousands of legal skilled and professional foreign workers in the CNMI—including nurses, teachers, accountants, hotel employees, caregivers, and house workers—go through an annual petition and approval of work permit renewal regardless of whether they have been working in the CNMI for over 20 years or just two years.