Twenty-five days before the Sept. 30 expiration of the work permits of foreign workers in the CNMI, the Saipan Chamber of Commerce remains hopeful that the CNMI would be granted a reprieve that would prevent the exodus of thousands of its workers.
Saipan Chamber of Commerce president Velma Palacios told Saipan Tribune in an interview that she remains hopeful for “some kind of reprieve” to prevent foreign workers under CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program from leaving the CNMI. If that is not prevented, many fear it would leave the economy in shambles.
“I am hopeful that we can get some type of reprieve so it will allow the businesses and their employees to stay, because [businesses are] most concerned if [their employees] should leave or stay throughout this renewal process,” Palacios said yesterday. “For the most part, most [employers] would like to continue the [workers’] employment, invoking the 240-day [extension], but we don’t know, so I hope something comes out soon.”
The Chamber conveyed its hope for a reprieve in a letter dated Aug. 26, 2019, to Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP). Besides an informal conversation about the letter, Palacios said there has been no response from Sablan’s office yet.
Besides the request for a reprieve, the letter also had some recommended amendments to the NMI Workforce Act of 2018, or Public Law 115-218, which the letter described as restrictive.
In an interview with Saipan Tribune, Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente confirmed that her department is aware of the Chamber’s letter to Sablan and concurred with most of its contents.
“We are hoping either the Delegate’s Office or the Governor’s Office can talk to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to do something, because I know they are just following the law. I am just hoping something happens,” she said.
In a letter dated Aug. 17, 2019, an informal group of over 200 CW workers met with Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to request for a reprieve from the impending Sept. 30, 2019, deadline, when majority of CW workers are believed to exit the CNMI.
The letter incorporated a request for reprieve and even deferred action for those who are struggling with the U.S. Department of Labor side of the CW petition renewal process. The letter was also reportedly sent to the Washington delegate, but Sablan did not confirm receipt with Saipan Tribune.
Sablan’s office had been recently publishing updates on the U.S. Department of Labor side of the CW petition renewal process.