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Monday, April 21, 2014

Chamber backs improved status for alien workers
Governor reiterates support to CNMI provision in Congress bills

The Saipan Chamber of Commerce, the largest business group in the CNMI, reiterated its support for Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan’s (Ind-MP) efforts to help provide improved immigration status to long-term legal aliens “because it’s the right thing to do,” even as the Northern Marianas Descent Corp. is asking U.S. Congress to reject any such provision in pending national immigration reform bills.

But the Chamber also supports efforts to train and employ U.S. workers, partnering with government and private entities in making these happen.

Chamber president Alex Sablan, in his message to members, said the Chamber continues to hope that initiatives will be implemented that will truly develop training, certification and/or degree programs relevant to the CNMI business community’s needs, particularly tourism.

He said there will be potentially 1,200 to 1,500 additional hotel rooms in the next two to four years “and a local workforce ill-prepared to enter this market.”

“While it is a current necessity, our hotel industry is training in-house to meet their most immediate needs but this is not and should not be the case in the CNMI,” Sablan said.

The Chamber president lauded Education Commissioner Rita Sablan’s effort to implement a Tourism Academy.

He also noted similar efforts by entities such as Northern Marianas College, Workforce Investment Agency now under the CNMI Department of Labor, Northern Marianas Trades Institute, and the Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands.

“On the subject of our much needed current foreign national workforce, for a decade and many more, these industrious and contributing men and women, members of our society, have nursed, built, managed, supervised, calculated, sold, trucked, delivered, engineered, prescribed, cleaned and by their sheer numbers provided an economy of scale that keeps our already costly ‘cost of living’ somewhat in check. In one way or another in every facet of our society, they have contributed to the personal economic well-being of everyone here,” Sablan said.

The Chamber president also talked about these individuals’ lasting relationships with community members—as best friends, friends, husbands, and wives.

“For these and many more reasons, the board of directors and many in the membership continue to support Congressman Kilili’s effort to provide for a CNMI permanent resident status for these individuals because it’s the right thing to do,” he added.

Gov. Eloy S. Inos, meanwhile, said he remains in support of a provision in S. 744 and H.R. 15 granting a pathway to improved status for long-term legal aliens in the CNMI.

S. 744 and H.R. 15, both pending in Congress, provide a pathway to citizenship to some 11 million undocumented aliens in America.

The Northern Marianas Descent Corp. Inc. is circulating a petition asking Congress to “reject” the inclusion in national immigration reform bills of any provision that would grant improved status to long-term legal aliens in the CNMI.

The governor reiterated that the CNMI provision in S. 744 and HR 15 does not violate the Covenant between the U.S. and the Northern Marianas.

If the transition to federal immigration is not extended beyond Dec. 31, 2014, the CNMI loses immediate access to some 12,000 foreign workers that the economy has relied upon for years, while there are still not enough U.S. workers to fill these jobs that foreign workers occupy.

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