A category of alien workers in the CNMI are seeking clarification from the CNMI Department of Labor regarding their eligibility for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
According to workers advocate Boni Sagana, parents of U.S. citizens who were given humanitarian paroles back in 2012 were given an Employment Authorization Document under the C11 category, making them lawfully authorized to work in the United States.
Citing the Disaster Unemployment Assistance handbook, Sagana said it is clear that C11 category EADs qualify for unemployment assistance.
“Based on the DUA handbook I read, to be eligible, you must be a holder of EAD for more than one year. That’s why C09, or EAD holders with pending green cards, were not eligible because their EADs are less than one year,” he said.
CNMI DOL has yet to issue an official list of EAD eligible categories despite Saipan Tribune’s numerous attempts to obtain clarification on EAD eligibility.
Sagana said that when the PUA program was launched back in June, a number of C11 holders received PUA. Now, however, C11 holders have been receiving denial letters and they are now confused why.
“We just want to know if there are guidelines because there are already C11s who received and now they’re denying others. They weren’t asked to return the money. There’s still a whole other issue with DUA. This is like an extension of that because just like DUA, PUA is denying EAD holders who are clearly qualified. That’s what we don’t understand,” he said.
Sagana said he just wants clarification for these long-term alien workers who are technically no longer temporary workers and should be considered part of the community.
“They have tried to appeal [their denials] and they struggled with that because most of these individuals are not technologically literate, but they try. Then there are still complications because when they receive the denial, it says they need to appeal in Guam and they did, but Guam answered them that they have to appeal to the CNMI Department of Labor, it’s so complicated, especially for those who aren’t computer literate,” he said.
Sagana is also seeking help from politicians who can step in and help the alien workers that they now also represent. He noted that they have already spoken with Rep. Tina Sablan (D-Saipan) about the issue because many C11s reside in her village.
“I hope other politicians can help us because they also represent us; we’re members of the community already. I hope [DOL] gives a clarification on this so that people are aware of what’s going on because they need help, especially during this pandemic,” he said.