CWs rule


There are two ways to read the title: 1) the power of CWs, or 2) the CNMI rule on CWs. My answer is an unequivocal “YES.” Now, if I could only remember what the question was.

USCIS announced on May 20, 2016, that the fiscal year 2016 cap for CW-1 permits has been reached and no new applications would be accepted or processed for FY 2016, which ends September 30, 2016. The matter of CWs in the current CNMI conversation has become heated recently when this cap on applications, revealed to be the number of 12,999, ended the year May 5 and will not address any application again until Oct. 1, 2016, the start of the Fed’s fiscal year 2017.

I will defer to the legal acumen of the wife-husband legal team of Maya Kara and Bruce Mailman who recently wrote objectively on the current CW situation. Those seeking legal guide may also check Janet King and Pat Brown’s offices. (The three out of four lawyers being female is no accident by my recommendation. With the U.S. soon to have its first female president, it is time to break the glass ceiling on gender inequality. Patriarchy has had its millennia; time for the ladies to take their seat equitably around the table!) Maya and Bruce have, however, measured words on immigration reform.

Over where I live, most of the residents are CWs, a majority from the Philippines, and the female in the home holds a job in one of the numerous stores and restaurants within the tourist hotels; it is a youngish crowd. The image of the adverse effect of the feds reminding all that it adopted a cap formula in the granting of CW status since 2011, and for this year, that cap has already been reached, is the source of alarm.

As one of my colleagues in school, when the health folks for the second time, came to school to alert us of tuberculosis, “We will not be alarmed, we will just panic.” The Kara/Mailman team on the CW situation defers from panicking yet, and lays out the scenario of a few who are affected by the sudden increase of CW applications for 2016 with the need for construction workers in the new casino resort being built on island. But the public image will not be anything but the “sky is falling.”

As with everything else, the anxiety level takes precedence over the observation on the objective level, because that’s how we have been trained to operate. The emotive level precedes over the objective and the indicative, and much as I support the literary thrust of PSS, unless we understand that the learner must first learn to describe the objective information of what it sees, smells, hears, tastes, and touches, the cognition associated with reading of managing “words and numbers”, with their congruent tenses and moods will simply be the uttering of sounds repeated without meaning.

I was asked three times this week to comment on the CWs. What can I say? That the CWs now outnumber the indigenes, and with the U.S. issuing residency permits for those who lived legally and continuously on a U.S. territory for five years, they can apply for permanent residency, and eventually, voting rights. That is a prospect of many indigene who do not wish to be relegated as the minority for as long as they can help it.

One of my close associates from Pinas relates the story of being in a meeting where Lino of San Isidro craftily expressed his opinions in Chamorro and Refaluwasch, and he did it so well that the members of the group of Philippine descent applauded with the rest of the crowd on Lino’s eloquence, only to be told later by those knowledgeable that Lino had asked pointedly for the foreigners in the crowd to leave and let the indigene decide and choose its course in history.

I will say that this sentiment of CW leaving after their contract expires is no longer an option. The CWs are here to stay. Consider the figures from the Maya/Mailman article in the Saipan Tribune last June 7. Since 2011 when the Federal government took over the granting of CW permits, the numbers are: 22,417 (2011) down to 12,999 (2016).

The cap was established after the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (“CNRA”) was passed, CNMI-effective Nov. 28, 2009. The Act authorized the U.S. Department of Labor to issue a certain number of CW-1 permits to foreign workers.

For over-stayers, a form of penalty applies. Those who overstay are subject to removal (deportation), but the government tolerates those who did not enter unlawfully or have no criminal record, but there are consequences. Those who overstayed for more than 180 days, then exit, will not be able to return for three years. Over-stayers for a year are barred from returning for 10 years. Many legal CWs have taken this over-stay option and are now the subject of deportation.

Look at the number of CWs granted since 2011, and the number of over-stayers, and the overwhelming number of CWs that trigger alarm signals on indigenous management of the governance once new residents become citizens, is loud and clear.

I am not surprised by the Lino speech. What else can he say?

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at

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