‘CW extension a double-edged sword’
Former governor Juan N. Babauta likens the new law that extends the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program beyond 2019 and increases the CW cap limits for the fiscal year to a double-edged sword.
On one hand, the CW extension bill does temporarily resolves the workforce shortage in the CNMI, he said. On the other hand, the new law also immediately reduces the number of foreign workers. The law does that by reducing the number of CW workers in the first year by 500 and does that for four years.
“That is the concern that was raised by the business community leaders as well as the small industries here in the CNMI,” said Babauta yesterday in an interview shortly before he and Dr. Rita A. Sablan filed their candidacies as independent for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively.
U.S. President J. Trump signed the CW bill into law last week.
The former governor pointed out that, based on the new law, after four years, it would reduce the number of CW workers by 1,000 a year until it reaches zero by 2029.
“So immediately, the first year, it will begin to send back CW workers to their country of origin. If that CW worker happens to have a family here, the double-edged sword I’m talking about is that it also begins to tear families apart,” he said.
Babauta said he does not know if the CNMI has another chance at another CW extension like this one.
He said what the CNMI needs to do immediately is to sit down and begin to address a long-term local citizen workforce before 2029.
One of the ways to do that is to support fully the Northern Marianas Trade Institute, he said.
“They have been longing and reaching out for help and Dr. Sablan and I are going to extend our hand out to help NMTI develop into an institution,” Babauta said.
The former governor said the CNMI also must work with U.S. Congress on possible new legislation or amendment just in case there is a need to address this issue by legislation if the Commonwealth is not prepared by 2029.