CW-1 cap delay 2nd longest in program’s history


It’s already a little over the halfway mark of November 2017, yet U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has yet to release a numerical limit on the CNMI’s foreign workforce fiscal year 2018. That makes it the second longest delay in the program’s history since 2013.

Based on information obtained from its own website, USCIS had been mostly prompt since 2011 when it comes to releasing a number that sets the ceiling on the number of CW-1 visas it approves in a fiscal year.

The numerical caps for fiscal years 2011 and 2012 were simultaneously released and set at 22,417 and 22,416 respectively.

In fiscal year 2013’s announcement of the CW-1 cap, which was the latest the USCIS has ever set the numerical limit, was set to 15,000 CW-1 visas.

In fiscal year 2013, instead of an official announcement, USCIS published the cap in the Federal Register on Nov. 30, 2012, a full two months into the fiscal year.

For fiscal years 2014 to 2015 as well as fiscal year 2017, USCIS set the numerical cap for each respective fiscal year promptly, with the agency setting the cap before the start of each fiscal year, October.

Fiscal year 2016’s announcement of the CW-1 cap was announced last Oct. 22, 2015, according to the USCIS website.

Saipan Tribune attempted to obtain updates on the fiscal year 2018 cap but a USCIS representative said the Federal Register notice has yet to be signed as of Nov. 16, 2017.

According to a previous statement from the administration of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, the delay is possibly due to the White House’s investigation on the CNMI economy.

“The goal of the [Torres] administration continues to be the development of the local capacity within our workforce to meet the needs of our economy and the mandates of Public Law 110-229. Simultaneously, [the administration] advocates for the CNMI in ensuring our federal partners in Washington, D.C. understand that our economic growth and job opportunities for U.S. workers relies on the access and presence of foreign workers,” said press secretary Kevin Bautista.

In the same statement, Torres was informed in early October 2017 that a “substantial reduction” in the CW-1 cap for fiscal year 2018 was being proposed by USCIS.

“In response to this information, Gov. [Torres] spoke with the White House and the deputy chief of staff of the President and the White House Intergovernmental Affairs Office to request their assistance on behalf of the CNMI people,” said Bautista.

“During the governor’s trip to D.C., he met with the Department of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs, the White House, and USCIS to bring forward the economic harm a dramatic reduction would bring to the CNMI economy in this timeframe, as well as the many efforts done by the local government and the private sector to recruit, hire, and train U.S. workers,” he added, also specifying that Torres continues to pursue “all avenues to advocate on behalf of the CNMI” on this issue.

In a separate statement from Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP), he believes that the CW-1 limit should only be reduced by one, just as the previous two fiscal years prior.

“My position is that the 2018 cap should go down by one—just one—to 12,997,” he said. “That would be the safest decision for the Northern Marianas economy right now,” adding that he would “not speculate on why the Trump administration has not yet made a decision” on the fiscal year 2018 CW-1 cap.

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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