DOL: USCIS CW reduction is huge

Reduction in permits will also affect funding for training

The recent lowering of the annual limit for CNMI-Only Transitional Worker permits for fiscal year 2016 by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was “surprising” according to CNMI Department of Labor Secretary Edith DeLeon Guerrero.

“It’s a surprise to everybody, meaning the huge number reduction, but it’s not necessarily a surprise because we all know what the law calls for under U.S. Public Law 110-229, that they need to gradually reduce the CWs in the CNMI,” DeLeon Guerrero said.

Last week, the federal government announced the 1,000-count cut for the visas, meaning only 12,999 CWs could be issued for the new fiscal year.

Last year, USCIS only lowered the count by one, placing the cap at 13,999.

DeLeon Guerrero said the reduction is allowed within the statute and that is “what the law calls for.”

U.S. P.L. 110-229 calls for the gradual reduction of CWs in the Commonwealth. The discretionary authority as to what the “reduction” will be all falls under the USCIS.

“The discretionary authority for the U.S. Department of Labor, that’s all taken away. The U.S. Secretary of Labor does not really have the decision to indicate the number of visa. That’s all under USCIS, Homeland Security authority so that’s what they did, they executed their authority,” DeLeon Guerrero said.

In a press release last week, the USCIS said the Department of Homeland Security “reduced the FY 2016 CW-1 limit by 1,000 to meet the CNMI’s existing labor market needs and provide opportunity for potential growth, while meeting a regulatory requirement to reduce the numerical limit each year.”

The reduction does not only affect the workers and employers per se, but also the budget that would be allotted for training to replace these foreign workers under the CW fund.

With every CW permit, a $150 per beneficiary is collected for the fund.

“The anticipation of less 1,000, if you don’t hit that ceiling of 12,999 cap, you can already tell that the amount of money will be lesser,” DeLeon Guerrero said.

This, she said, can result to obstacles in the program.

“Without the necessary funding to support the institutions that are providing the training, that would definitely raise some kind of obstacle,” DeLeon Guerrero said.

The law also calls for the eventual phasing out of the CW program by 2019.

Asked what could be the trend for the reduction for the next three years, considering that the 1,000 count is moderate as compared to the needed zeroing in, DeLeon Guerrero said no one knows but now is the time to prepare.

“For the next fiscal year, no one knows exactly what will be the decision, that’s too soon to tell but we definitely should start preparing,” DeLeon Guerrero said.

“It’s not that we’re not preparing since the inception of U.S. Immigration, but we need to start looking ahead and realizing that the numbers will continue to drop unless something changes in terms of U.S. regulations,” she added.

DeLeon Guerrero said invoking the 902 negotiation is the “best vehicle” to discuss the issue “because of the magnitude and the impact that it would do to the economy of the Commonwealth.”

Frauleine S. Villanueva-Dizon | Reporter
Frauleine Michelle S. Villanueva was a broadcast news producer in the Philippines before moving to the CNMI to pursue becoming a print journalist. She is interested in weather and environmental reporting but is an all-around writer. She graduated cum laude from the University of Santo Tomas with a degree in Journalism and was a sportswriter in the student publication.

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