CW program extended to 2029


As widely expected, U.S. President Donald J. Trump enacted early morning yesterday—by the statutory deadline—a measure that extends the Commonwealth’s foreign worker program to 2029 and sets the number of workers per year until the program winds down.

A 7:30am announcement by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ administration, followed by an announcement by Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan’s (Ind-MP) office a few minutes later, confirmed that Trump signed U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop’s (R-UT) H.R. 5956. Sablan co-sponsored the bill.

Torres expressed relief and gratitude, citing the over two years of discussions to get the measure over the threshold.

“This process was not easy, and we knew heading into it that there would be uncertainty along the way, but I am proud to say that we have accomplished something that will benefit all of us,” he said in an early morning statement.

He gave kudos to Trump, Bishop, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the Northern Marianas Business Alliance Corp., Jason Osborne, the Legislature, “and most importantly, the entire community.”

“This is a victory for the Commonwealth,” Torres said.

He did not mention Sablan, who is a political opponent.

“We can celebrate this accomplishment with the understanding that we must continue to train our people, give them the skills to thrive in our growing economy, and take greater part in contributing to even greater levels of success,” Torres added.

In a separate statement, Sablan noted that his focus now shifts to implementing the new law. He plans to meet with U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen today to talk about making available the 13,000 worker slots provided in H.R. 5956. DHS oversees the operation of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that administers the foreign worker program, or CW-1.

“The congressional office has already had contact with USCIS about making the 8,001 additional CW permits for next year available quickly,” said Sablan.

“I will be seeing Secretary Nielsen [today] here at the Capitol and also having an in-depth meeting at USCIS later in the day. We will go over a range of issues that people have already asked me about. And I will be encouraging the agency to reopen the application window without delay,” Sablan told Saipan Tribune.

Torres has stated that he has also sent his concerns to USCIS regarding the implementation of the new law. Saipan Tribune has yet to get a hold of that letter.

Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan), said the passage of H.R. 5956 marks the start of “positive changes” to the NMI workforce.

“This new law also provides that we exert every effort to train our people and give them the resources to fill jobs and help us build our U..S-eligible workforce. And that’s a commitment we make to everyone in the Commonwealth,” he said.

Saipan Tribune attempted to reach out to USCIS about the timeline for the implementation of the new law but USCIS has yet to respond as of press time.

In a statement, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke praised Trump for enacting the bill. “This law allows for the appropriate extensions and adjustments to enforce the law effectively and appropriately without stifling needed economic growth in the territory. The Department of the Interior remains committed to working with our fellow Americans and leadership in the CNMI,” he said.

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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