Sen. Francisco Q. Cruz (R-Saipan) said the ongoing issue with the CNMI-Only Transitional Non-immigrant Workers Visa program would stall the economic development the Commonwealth has been experiencing, particularly on Saipan. Economic activity on Saipan increased in the last two years while several investors are also looking at starting projects on Tinian. Rota officials have also mentioned that some businesses are looking at building a hotel resort on the CNMI’s southernmost island.
The CNMI would need a huge number of laborers once construction of several establishments that are being developed go full blast and additional workers once these hotels begin their operations.
And Cruz said the CW1 issue is among the obstacles that the CNMI is facing. “Like I said, time is very limited. The worst thing is going to happen. We have a lot of obstacles, especially the CW issue.”
“But we can’t tell the [United States Citizenship and Immigration Services] to do what we want. To tell them what we want to do is not our jurisdiction. All we could do is ask for some consideration. That’s why I’m hoping USCIS would consider extending the CW program,” added Cruz.
He said it would be impossible for Tinian and Rota to also experience economic gains if there’s a shortage of workers. Alter City Group and Bridge Investment Group are two investors that have hotel projects on the island. BIG is also in the final stages of the port facility it built near Kammer Beach on Tinian.
“We could not sustain this kind of development if we could not get workers. It would be impossible. Those who would want to go to Tinian and Rota will first look at the amount they are going to be offered and if they would accept it then they will look for a place where they could stay,” said Cruz.
He added the community would benefit from workers since they are going to spend what they earn in buying goods and other basic needs.
“That’s why I’m hoping USCIS and the federal government would give us the consideration of extending the CW1 program and as well as increasing the numerical limit to 18,000,” said Cruz, who chairs the Senate Committee on Executive Appointments and Government Investigations. He is also a ranking member of the Senate committees on Federal Relations and Independent Agencies, and Resources, Economic Development and Programs.
He said all agencies concerned should assist investors to expedite their projects “so these developers could move forward with the projects. The CNMI would benefit from these developments, not only Tinian.”
He said he spoke with BIG chief executive officer Philip Mendiola-Long before the election where they talked about the projects that they are planning on Tinian. “It will really be great for Tinian if the ferry comes back. I saw some of Bridge Investment’s perspective on Tinian and one of which is the ferry dock.”
Cruz said the ferry dock would be next to Kammer Beach where the former stevedoring warehouse was once located.
He added the Tinian Casino and Gaming Commission would know more about BIG’s plans on Tinian after the company made a presentation about their projects for the island. ACG is also moving forward with their hotel in Puntan Diablo.