902 talks report now with Trump


CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and U.S. Department of the Interior official Douglas W. Domenech announced yesterday that they have submitted to U.S. President Donald Trump their final 902 Consultation report that focused mainly on the CNMI’s continued access to the China tourism market.

Torres and Domenech, who were the representatives of the CNMI and the U.S. federal government for this 902 Consultation, respectively, made four recommendations, among them to modify the discretionary parole program of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to reduce the maximum period of parole from 45 days to 14 days and electronic screening and vetting prior to arrival at the port of entry.

Right now, Chinese tourists are allowed to enter the CNMI through the parole program and without requiring them to first secure a U.S. visa in China.

In a joint statement, Torres and Domenech, who is the Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs, described their recommendations as “collaborative steps forward to protect economic and security interests for the U.S. in the CNMI.”

Torres and Domenech said the recommendations have been approved for implementation because “they provide an important opportunity to improve the nation’s security while respecting the CNMI economy.”

The recommendations are the following:

-Modify the parole program with enhanced security provisions.

-Create a CNMI economic vitality and security travel authorization program as a sub-program of the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program.

-Pursue agreement and additional ways to collaborate on immigration enforcement.

-Elevate focus on U.S. territories in the Pacific by engaging the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Douglas W. Domenech

Torres and Domenech gave these recommendations after a 902 Consultation process that involved their meeting at the Department of the Interior last Feb. 26 and another round of meetings and site visits on Saipan and Tinian last April 2 and 3.

The 902 Consultation process is outlined under Section 902 of the Covenant agreement between the CNMI and the U.S.

Torres said the final 902 report is a collaboration between the CNMI and federal partners over the last several months and balances national security interests in the Pacific, while giving the CNMI continued access to economic resources and opportunities.

Under the first recommendation, enhancement of security provisions will allow for information exchange and cooperation to combat human trafficking and unlawful employment.

This will be an interim step until the completion of the addition of China to the CNMI Economic Vitality and Security Travel Authorization Program.

Until the modifications are enacted, current parole policies will remain in place.

Under the second recommendation, Torres and Domenech support the creation of a new sub-program of the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program, or GCVWP.

The GCWP allows for the addition of countries to the program and the Guam governor and the CNMI governor can ask the Homeland Security secretary to add a country to the program.

The Homeland Security secretary may impose conditions—such as installing an electronic automated screening platform for use by Chinese nationals entering the CNMI under the GCVWP—prior to allowing nationals of that country to obtain the waiver.

Within Customs and Border Protection regulations, Torres and Domenech recommend that DHS create a restricted travel authorization program under the authorities of the GCVWP and add China to this sub-program.

The sub-program, the CNMI Economic Vitality and Security Travel Authorization Program, would include additional restrictions.

Under this visa-free travel program, travelers would only be allowed to enter the CNMI and would not be permitted to enter Guam, the U.S. mainland, or any other U.S. location.

Travelers under the EVS-TAP will be subject to electronic screening and vetting prior to entry.

The U.S. will explore adding bonding requirements. Travel authorization under the EVS-TAP would be for a maximum of 14 days.

As for the third recommendation, DHS will begin negotiations with the CNMI to enter into a formal written agreement that deputizes state and local law enforcement officers to perform the functions of federal immigration agents under the supervision of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This is where concerns about the practice of birth tourism in the CNMI could be addressed.

As for the fourth and final recommendation, under the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the U.S. federal government and the CNMI government, along with other U.S. territories in the Pacific, will maintain a long-term dialogue on domestic policy issues affecting Pacific territories.

The 902 consultations process started when Torres asked Trump to initiate the consultation in a letter dated Oct. 19, 2018, identifying as a primary issue the impact of a possible revocation of the existing parole policy for Chinese nationals would have on the CNMI’s access to the Chinese tourist market and how it would imperil the CNMI’s economic survival.

Super Typhoon Yutu’s devastation on Saipan and Tinian last Oct. 24 and 25 prompted CNMI officials to ask the federal government to delay the talks.

Last Feb. 26, Trump designated Domenech as the special representative for the U.S. for the 902 Consultation. Torres was designated to serve as the CNMI special representative.

Other agencies that joined the talks were the U.S. Department of the Interior, Homeland Security, State, Defense, and several executive office of the president personnel from the Office of Management and Budget, National Security Council, Domestic Policy Counsel, White House counsel, and White House Intergovernmental Affairs.

Since 1986 when the Covenant was fully implemented, several 902 consultations have been initiated. The CNMI last invoked the formal 902 Consultation process in 2016. Only one report to the president from prior 902 Consultations has ever been submitted.

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
Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.