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Monday, April 21, 2014

Admin wants annual registration of aliens
-Over 130 comments on DHS worker rules -Comment period ends tomorrow, Jan. 8

DEFINITION:
Alien: Any person who is not a citizen, national, permanent resident of the United States, or a CNMI permanent resident as provided by Trust Territory or Commonwealth law.

The Fitial administration wants an annual registration of every alien who remains in the CNMI for over 90 days under the U.S. law that placed CNMI immigration under federal control.
This is among the changes to Public Law 110-229 or the federalization law that Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, through his special counsel Howard P. Willens, is proposing to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The Fitial administration is among the entities that have so far posted over 130 comments on DHS’ interim final rule on the CNMI Transitional Worker Classification, which was reopened for public comment on Dec. 10.

Jan. 8 is the last day to submit comments.

The interim final rule seeks to create a new CNMI-only transitional worker, or “CW,” classification intended to be effective during the transition period ending Dec. 31, 2014.

Willens said these comments are in addition to those submitted earlier on DHS’ interim final rule.

Among the changes proposed is the addition of a new Part 1 (Registration) under “Citizenship.”

“Every alien who remains in the Commonwealth longer than 90 days shall by regulation be required to be registered. Registration may be renewable annually. The parents or legal guardians of aliens under the age of 18 are responsible for such child’s registration,” Willens said.

Local agencies

Willens said such registration should be conducted by the CNMI Department of Labor, CNMI Department of Commerce, and the CNMI Office of the Attorney General, depending on the classification of the aliens.

For example, the registration of aliens who are qualified to work in the CNMI, those who are religious ministers and missionaries and work on the islands, and those aliens who are immediate relatives of aliens qualified to reside in the CNMI shall be conducted by Labor.

Registration of aliens who are investors, business owners or students qualified to reside in the CNMI shall be conducted by Commerce, while registration of all other aliens qualified to reside on the islands shall be conducted by the attorney general.

“Such registration information as the registration authorities may require, including but not limited to fingerprints, is confidential and may be made available only on request of law enforcement authorities in connection with criminal or juvenile delinquency investigations,” Willens said.

He defines “alien” as any person who is not a citizen, national, permanent resident of the United States, or a CNMI permanent resident as provided by Trust Territory or Commonwealth law.

Fitial had said that his administration has no qualms about the federal government taking over local immigration, but not CNMI labor.

Willens is also proposing that aliens be issued an identification card, which will indicate date of expiration and nonimmigrant class, as well as such other information, including photographs, as may be required.

Under the proposal, any alien who fails to comply with the registration may be found guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, may be imprisoned for not more than 90 days, or fined by up to $500 or both.

In the Fitial administration’s original comment on DHS’ interim final rule, Willens said DHS should not implement the interim rule on the CNMI-Transitional Worker Classification on Nov. 28 as it is deficient for many reasons.

Two days prior to federalization, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction preventing DHS from implementing the regulations on Nov. 28, to give the public enough time to comment, as required by the Administrative Procedures Act.

Two weeks later, DHS reopened and extended for another 30 days the public comment period for the interim final rule as published in the Dec. 10 Federal Register. The comment period will remain open until Jan. 8, 2010.

A majority of the comments received so far by DHS came from nonresidents, many of them asking the federal government to grant a more permanent immigration status for nonresidents in the CNMI. Many of them ask for “green card” or legal permanent residency status under U.S. immigration laws.

Some comments deal with other specific concerns, including a DHS waiver of application fees.

Rocky Samaniego, a nonresident, said the application fee for the Form I-129 is “very costly” and many employers may not be able to afford it.

“Plus the fact that if ever we have achieved already a status here as CW-1 and exit Saipan for vacation, business or emergencies, we again have to get a U.S. visa from home origin which would be another round of fees,” Samaniego said.

Xiaoli Qian, a nonresident worker from China since 2002, wishes that “all long-term guest workers” get U.S. immigration status.

Serajul Islam, also a nonresident, asked whether a CW-1 visa be changed into an H visa in the near future. “It is not addressed anywhere in the regulations,” Islam said.

DHS’ U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services earlier said that it will consider all comments received during the public comment period of Oct. 27, 2009 to Jan. 8, 2010, in developing its final transitional worker rule.

The interim final rule is available for public comment at www.regulations.gov. To find this rule on regulations.gov, search under the docket number USCIS-2008-0038.

DHS is establishing a Transitional Worker Visa category, a new nonimmigrant visa classification under the Immigration and Nationality Act using the admission code CW-1 for the principal transitional worker and CW-2 for dependents. “CW” stands for “Commonwealth transitional worker.”

A “transitional worker” is defined as an alien worker who is currently ineligible for another classification under the INA and who performs services or labor for an employer in the CNMI.

Under the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program, employers may file a petition for a transitional worker with USCIS using Form I-129CW, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker in the CNMI.

The Form I-29CW is a modified form of the Form I-29, but it is specifically used for the Commonwealth-only Transitional Worker program.

The fee for Form I-129CW would be $320, the same amount charged for the I-129, and an $80 biometrics fee.

In addition, the Consolidated Natural Resources Act mandates a “CNMI education funding fee” of $150 per beneficiary per year, which cannot be waived.

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