Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan) again pushed for the CNMI to be part of the review and vetting process done by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in approving permits under the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker Nonimmigrant visa program or CW1 for foreign laborers.
Demapan said having the CNMI part of the review is one of the issues that they’ve discussed during the 902 Talks last year. He added one option is to talk to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on this matter since USCIS is one of its attached agencies.
“That was one of the issues that we talked about in the 902 Talks. To have a separate process and separate pool for employees who are under the renewal process. I guess, in order for us to do this is to explore on how to pool the renewals versus the new employees,” said Demapan.
“How to split the pools according to the labor needs of the Commonwealth. Because it is unfair, inequitable, and unstable for employees in the renewal process to be kicked out of the system because a new CW1 application permit came in and got approved first.”
He added that so far, the CNMI’s biggest challenge is having no voice in the decision-making process in approving and issuing CW permits. “If the federal government is willing to allow the CNMI to have a hand in the process, then we’ll be in a better position in what permits do we actually need on the ground.”
“Without having, for example, our local labor involved in the process we’re not really validating the CNMI’s labor needs that’s listed in all petitions. I really believe that the first and foremost immediate solution is for the federal government to allow a partnership or collaboration with the CNMI government in terms of vetting the CW petitions.”
Demapan said what the CNMI asked for in the 902 Talks is not to be the one to approve the CW permits. “But for at least before it reaches the approval stage at USCIS, there may be some kind of review and certification from the local government’s side.”
“So when it comes to USCIS for review, they can be in a better and more informed decision whether this is the position needed in the CNMI,” added the former House Federal and Foreign Affairs chair. Demapan was also a member of the CNMI panel in the 902 Talks and is now the vice chair of the House FAA committee.
Demapan said USCIS could then make adjustments in approving petitions if ever the CNMI could be granted to become part of the CW1 review process. “Whether [the position] is needed today or a few months down the line. Recommendations first before they make a decision.”
He added the current labor crisis experienced under the CW1 program was unforeseen when it was created in 2009. “What happened now is developments have taken place. We did not envision that CW slots would have a problem and the decrease would hinder our development.”
“There’s still a way around it, if we can manage to be a partner in the management in the review and vetting process of CW permits renewals.”