2,898 apply for NMI permanent residency

Sablan says 29 have been approved, 8 are denied, 2,861 are still waiting

Of the 2,898 who applied for the CNMI Permanent Resident Status that was created under U.S. Public Law 116-24, so far a total of 29 have been approved and eight applications have been denied.

In his e-kilili newsletter over the weekend, Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) said this leaves 2,861 people who are still waiting for their applications to be adjudicated.

The delegate said he obtained the data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which gave him an update on applications for the CNMI Permanent Resident status, in preparation for his meeting with newly-sworn U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Former president Donald J. Trump signed into law in June 2019 Public Law 116-24, the Northern Mariana Islands Long-Term Legal Residents Relief Act, that Sablan had introduced. The legislation was written to protect from deportation the 1,038 individuals who had been granted humanitarian parole during the Obama administration.

Once the act was signed into law, DHS temporarily extended parole and set an Aug. 17, 2020, deadline for those affected to apply for permanent resident status in the CNMI.

Long-Term Resident Status provided under Public Law 116-24 allows the recipient to live and work legally in the Marianas for as long as they want without the need to apply for any other immigration visa or status.

Sablan said USCIS is trying to reduce the backlog, including by distributing the workload to more field offices.

He said that, according to USCIS, it is facing numerous challenges due to COVID-19, including the closure of the Saipan Application Service Center, where biometric data is collected, and a high rate of requests for evidence to demonstrate eligibility for the new permanent resident status.

Sablan said USCIS’ current COVID-19 flexibilities do allow an additional 60 days beyond the normal 12-week response requirement for applicants to respond to requests for evidence.

The delegate said Mayorkas, who was sworn in as Homeland Security secretary earlier this month by Vice President Kamala Harris, reached out to him to renew the relationship they built when he led USCIS during the Obama administration.

Sablan disclosed that in their conversation on Wednesday Mayorkas reminded him of his phone calls to Sablan on two separate Thanksgiving Days to let Sablan know that USCIS was extending humanitarian parole to people in the Marianas caught in the immigration transition.

“I look forward to working with the new secretary on the Biden administration’s U.S. Citizenship Act,” the delegate said.

Sablan also disclosed that Rep. Linda Sanchez and Sen. Robert Menendez introduced Friday President Biden’s vision for modernizing immigration, the U.S. Citizenship Act.

Sablan said the proposed Act includes special provisions for the Marianas that he helped draft with the Biden transition team last year.

He said the act incorporates elements of his bill, H.R. 560, that grant permanent status to certain CW workers and foreign investors in the Northern Marianas.

The delegate said the act also makes certain noncitizens, including many in the Marianas, eligible for a new “Law Prospective Immigrant” status.

He said LPI status provides lawful presence and work authorization, is valid for six years, and may be extended for an additional six years.

He said after a minimum of five years in LPI status, an individual may be eligible for U.S. lawful permanent residence.

Sablan said other provisions address backlogs in the immigrant visa system by recapturing unused visas, and adjusting certain per-country limits and create an exemption from worldwide visa limits for children of certain Filipino veterans.

Sablan is an original co-sponsor of the U.S. Citizenship Act.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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