The Northern Marianas' first-ever non-voting delegate says he will caucus with the House Democrats in the 111th Congress.
Delegate-elect Gregorio Kilili Sablan, who traveled to Washington, D.C. on Friday in the hope of joining this week's briefing for new congressional members, has set out the reasons he has chosen to align with the ruling party in the U.S. Congress.
“It is time for a new generation of leaders to write the next chapter of our great American story. The Obama-Biden Administration and the Democratic leadership in the 111th Congress will roll up their sleeves and work hard to write that story for all Americans, and it is crucial that we have a role in that story,” Sablan, an independent, said in a statement.
According to Sablan, he believes in the Democratic Party's support for economic development and fair treatment under federal programs of the insular areas. He cites the party's plan to phase out the cap on Medicaid funding and to phase-in equal participation in other federal health care assistance programs to U.S. citizens in the insular areas, including the Northern Mariana Islands.
Sablan also said the incoming Democratic Congress can provide “immediate temporary funding [to help boost the local economy] because they understand that prosperity for our islands can come from a federal-Commonwealth partnership.”
Sablan also bared a plan to work with House Democrats on the new immigration law for the Commonwealth. He expressed concern about the law's “unintended consequences,” which include the uncertain status of long-time foreign investors and immediate relatives of U.S. citizens in the Commonwealth under the federalized system.
“The federalization of our immigration system has brought about unintended consequences and we need to work hard in providing more time in the transition of the implementation of PL 110-229. At the same time, the incoming Democratic Administration is committed to pursuing tough, practical, and humane immigration reform in their first year in office. Many families in the Northern Mariana Islands will be affected by existing immigration laws and we need to provide solutions that are humane but which do not condone those who disrespect the law,” he said.
Sablan also looks to the Democratic Congress to take the lead in developing alternative energy, which he said is crucial to the CNMI's economic progress and environmental health. “We must take full advantage of a Democratic Congress to ensure that our own needs for new energy solutions are included in the national agenda,” he said.
On education, Sablan said, “The Democratic Party is committed to providing a world-class education for every child and has pledged to make quality, affordable early childhood care and education available to every American child from the day he or she is born.Our schools must also be equally committed to ensuring that our students catch up and keep pace with the rest of the world with a partnership with the federal government. This creates an exceptional opportunity for a partnership with the Democrats in Congress.”
Sablan added that the Northern Marianas can rely on the Democratic administration and Congress to offer full funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which he said will empower Americans with disabilities, including those in the islands, to succeed in school and be productive members of our community.
Support for the veterans, he said, is another area where the Democratic Congress can help the Commonwealth. “We need to do right by our veterans and their families who deserve our respect and gratitude, not just on Veterans Day or Memorial Day, but every day,” Sablan said. “While it is great that there are efforts to open a medical clinic in the Northern Mariana Islands for service retirees and eligible veterans, we must join the Democratic Congress to ensure that every veteran has access to quality health care for injuries, both physical and mental, and require that health professionals screen all service members upon their return from combat.”
“It is for these reasons important and crucial to the Northern Mariana Islands that I plan to join newly elected President Barack Obama and his Administration and caucus with the Democrats in the 111th Congress,” Sablan said.