H.R. 559 has hit a temporary obstacle. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to delete a provision in the bill that would allow people to challenge a DHS or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services decision.
Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP), who introduced H.R. 559 in U.S. Congress to save the immigration status of about 1,038 people in the CNMI, wants to include a provision in the bill that individuals could actually challenge a decision of USCIS or DHS.
“And DHS doesn’t want that,” said Sablan.
He pointed out that 1,038 people are going to be applying for this program if the law passes.
“Some bureaucrat somewhere is going to sit down and review the application or petition, review it, and make a decision. And you can’t challenge that decision. That’s wrong,” he added.
H.R. 559 is the Northern Mariana Islands Long-Term Legal Residents Relief Act, which—if it passes and becomes a law—would save the status of 1,038 foreign workers that are under the CNMI categorical parole program that was terminated by USCIS last December.
Those affected by USCIS’ decision to discontinue the program include:
-Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and other stateless individuals;
-CNMI permanent residents and their immediate relatives;
-Immediate relatives of citizens of Freely Associated States (Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau); and
-Caregivers of CNMI residents.
Sablan introduced H.R. 559 to provide permanent residency status to these individuals. He said that, based on data provided by DHS, 1,038 individuals will be affected when the 180-day transition window ends on June 29.
“H.R. 559 is a bill that the DHS asked us to introduce. So they did give us assistance in drafting the bill. Unfortunately, I want to include in the bill a provision that individuals could actually challenge a decision of USCIS or DHS, if they think that they have been wronged so they could go to court. And DHS doesn’t want that,” said Sablan.
The Natural Resources Committee for Insular Affairs thinks that what DHS is trying to avoid is to set precedence, Sablan said. “If we do this without the judicial review clause, we’re setting a precedent for other immigration bills. And it is wrong, because the United States is founded on the concept that you can actually hold your government accountable,” he said.
“Making decisions and knowing that nobody can challenge your decision is wrong, and I wanted to be able to allow these individuals to challenge a decision if need be. But DHS doesn’t want that, so that’s where the problem is right now,” he added.
Sablan said that they would work on this provision when they return from recess later this week. “We’re still going to come back after the recess because the bill is already up on the floor three weeks ago. We have to take it down because DHS told us they would not support the bill. But we’re going to work on a language that’s acceptable to them. I need to get this clause that would protect the participants in the program.”
Sablan added that he knows time is critical to pass H.R. 559 and have it signed into law by President Donald Trump. “I also am aware this thing has a timeline, June 29. So while we’re doing this in the House, we’re already working with the Senate, where they may require a hearing.
“DHS cannot make this difficult by adjusting the timeline from June 30, say, by another 60 or 90 days. But it seems that they don’t want to do it.”