Babauta, Fitial: No improved status for long-term workers

Posted on Oct 14 2011

Tony M. Babauta, the assistant U.S. Interior secretary for Insular Affairs, said yesterday that there’s currently no legislation that considers the department’s April 2010 recommendation to grant long-term foreign workers in the CNMI an improved immigration status. Gov. Benigno R. Fitial said that nonresidents should stop hoping that they will be given improved status.

Babauta said “there’s nothing from the [Obama] administration currently where we would propose legislation to address that particular issue.”

Some 18 months have passed since Interior submitted its recommendation to Congress on granting status to foreign workers who have been lawfully in the CNMI for at least five years.

Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan’s (Ind-MP) H.R. 1466, which seeks CNMI-only resident status for four groups of people, does not propose granting improved status to foreign workers as recommended by Interior.

Babauta said that Interior carried out its mandate under U.S. Public Law 110-229 “and beyond that, there wasn’t any formal communication with Mr. Sablan to introduce or not to introduce legislation.”

The options that Interior recommended included conferring outright U.S. citizenship on these long-term aliens, a grant of permanent residency status leading to U.S. citizenship, and a grant of status similar to those given to citizens of Freely Associated States.


Fitial said that since the beginning, he believed Congress won’t grant improved immigration status to foreigners in the CNMI.

“The U.S. Congress is not stupid to entertain a few thousands [in the CNMI] and they’re fighting over 12 million over there [mainland]. That’s very basic. But nobody wants to believe me…so now we have a lot of not only illegal overstayers but also unemployed overstayers,” Fitial said in an interview at the ribbon cutting for the new Hemodialysis Center in Garapan yesterday.

Babauta was also in the CNMI yesterday for the new Hemodialysis Center’s ribbon cutting.

Fitial said “a lot” of nonresidents workers “don’t have jobs.”

“They are here because they still believe there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” he added.

Fitial said these individuals are “stubborn.” But he also acknowledged that there are many jobless aliens now going home.

[B]Crunch time[/B]

It’s now crunch time for unemployed nonresidents to find an employer that will file a Commonwealth-only worker status for them by Nov. 27.

Without a job by that date, nonresidents will lose their status to remain in the CNMI and could face deportation unless they fall under those categories that are eligible for parole.

They include CNMI permanent residents, immediate relatives of CNMI permanent residents, spouses, and children of deceased CNMI permanent residents, and immediate relatives of FAS citizens or those from Palau, the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia’s Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae, and Yap.

Many jobless nonresidents in the CNMI are still hoping that the federal government will grant them improved immigration status before Nov. 27 because they have worked in the CNMI for five, 10, 20, or more years.

Many of them are from the Philippines.

[B]Stable workforce[/B]

DHS’ U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services published the final worker rule on Sept. 7 and spent two weeks holding public outreach sessions to help employers and employees understand the final regulations.

Interior’s Babauta lauded DHS for its efforts in educating employers and employees about the CW rule.

Now that the final worker rule are released, Babauta hopes that the CNMI workforce will “remain stable” and lead to a turnaround in the CNMI economy.

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