Administration to look into implication of temporary worker ban
The administration of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres is looking into the implications for the CNMI of the temporary ban for certain work visas executed by President Donald J. Trump last Monday.
Included in the visa suspension in place until Dec. 31, 2020, are H-1B or H-2B visas, which are given to temporary workers performing services or labor of a temporary or seasonal nature; L visas which are for intra-company transferees; and J visas, which are given to physicians, professors, scholars, teachers, and exchange visitors.
“Right now, we’re trying to look at the implications. There’s a lot of H-2B on island, also H-1B visas. There’s certainly going to be implications and we need to take a look at that with the attorney general and see what we need to do,” said acting governor Arnold I. Palacios.
He added that they would need to take a closer look at the President’s order, and obtain more clarification from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as to whether there is an avenue for the CNMI to make a case regarding the situation. With many projects ongoing in the CNMI, the Commonwealth expects to continue to need H-2B visas.
“In terms of construction, let’s be honest about it, I don’t think we can strengthen our [local] construction labor force in the next five to 10 years. We were hoping that we could continue to recruit, actually, from the outside,” Palacios said, adding that his biggest concern would be health professionals. “We’re lucky that we have CW [CNMI-Transitional Only workers] visas to address that issue,” he added.
CWs are not affected
In a separate interview with Saipan Tribune, Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) said that “President Trump’s June 22 proclamation does not apply to CWs at all.”
The proclamation also does not apply to lawful permanent residents, immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, workers related to the food supply chain, and workers whose entry “is in the national interest.”
Sablan said that making foreign workers leave will transform Saipan into “almost like a ghost town.”
“[The] population here is so diverse already and sending away the workers, many of these workers occupy positions that U.S. citizens, U.S. workers don’t [want to] occupy. And it’s not just here, it’s throughout the nation,” he added. “They are very important to our economy, and I want to give them H.R. 560. It doesn’t give them any privilege, any access to public charge programs, it just gives them status here as a permanent resident only in the Northern Marianas.”
H.R. 560, introduced by Sablan to provide permanent resident status to long-term CW workers and investors only in the CNMI, is now in the Senate after the U.S. House of Representatives passed it in February.
3-year permit for long-term workers
In the meantime, Sablan’s e-newsletter announced that the Interim Final Rule implementing the NMI U.S. Workforce Act of 2018 took effect last week.
“Employers can now petition CW-1 workers, who meet the definition of long-term worker in the law, for the new, three-year permit. Employers are also now subject to new requirements, including e-verify program enrollment, semi-annual verification of CW-1 employment, and temporary departure,” he said.
Aside from this, USCIS also announced the automatic extension of parole and employment authorization for Marianas persons with parole expiring on June 29, 2020.
According to Sablan, USCIS “is taking this action to allow those applying for CNMI Long-Term Resident Status to do so without worrying about their status.”
Those covered will need a copy of the web alert, Form I-766 (EAD) with the “C-11” category code and expiration date on or before June 29, 2020, as proof of identity, and work authorization, as proof of employment eligibility.
“Public Law 116-24 established the CNMI Long-Term Resident status. I introduced the legislation to provide permanent status for certain persons affected by the termination of the CNMI categorical parole programs in December 2018,” said Sablan. “Applications must be received by Aug. 17, 2020. This is the only opportunity to apply.”