Codel concludes with wreath-laying at AMP

Murkowski: Addressing workforce issues require legislation

Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) congressional delegation concluded its one-day visit to the CNMI with a customary wreath laying held at the American Memorial Park last Tuesday.

In a brief address immediately following the wreath laying ceremony, Murkowski said the wreath represented the sacrifices NMI residents made to defend freedom as well as place a mark in the world.

“It has been a true honor to be immersed in this history here today on Saipan; this morning on Tinian; yesterday in Guam; [and then] Palau to truly understand what the people of this region have given for freedom. Thank you for allowing my husband and I to be able to pay tribute and honor the sacrifices of so many. We are honored and blessed to be with you,” she said.

Both Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) immediately expressed their gratitude towards the codel’s visit.

“Thank you for your time. We are very blessed to have Senator Murkowski visit the islands. It’s a great honor to have her here. Each and every one of us appreciates her fighting for us and being our voice in Washington, D.C,” said Torres.

The wreath laying was significant in paying respects to the “sacrifices made by both the men and women…and also by the victims who are indigenous” Sablan said.

Following the wreath-laying ceremony, Murkowski in a brief press conference said that she was compelled to drafting and championing legislation to address workforce issues as it continues to haunt the region.

“If you don’t have a workforce, you don’t have much of an economy. You can’t attract investment, you can’t attract tourism, you can’t attract [economic stability], you can’t build [an economy] without the workers, so recognizing that there needed to be a path forward, we saw the challenges and recognized that the only way we would be able to address it was through legislation,” he said.

Murkowski chairs the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources as well as leads the bipartisan bicameral working group tasked with studying the parameters of the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program extension.

On Jan. 19, 2018, after much discussion and negotiation within the working group, Murkowski introduced S.2325 to the U.S. Senate, while Sablan simultaneously introduced H.R. 4869 to the U.S. House.

S. 2325, or the U.S. Workforce Act, seeks to reset the CW cap for fiscal year 2019 to 13,000; provide additional validity to long-time CW workers; and extend the CNMI transitional period, along with programs under it such as the CW program and the E-2C investor program, to fiscal year 2029.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services disregarded Sablan’s and Torres’ request for a reprieve on the minimal CW slot limitation of 4,999 for fiscal year 2019 by announcing that they would start accepting CW applications and renewals for the fiscal year as early as April 2, 2018.

Murkowski during the same press conference said that she believes that the U.S. Senate would unanimously support S.2325. She added that if obtained, the unanimous U.S. Senate support acts as a “message” to U.S. President Donald J. Trump, who has had iron-fisted immigration stances even before officially taking office.

S.2325 is currently placed at the U.S. Senate calendar for action.

Murkowski made the visit to the CNMI on the invitation of both Torres and Sablan.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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