The end is near


Many are upbeat and relieved with the proposed extension up to 240 days of continued work authorization for CW-1 nonimmigrant workers beyond the expiration date noted on their Form I-94, as proposed by DHS. This is an affirmative proposal for both employers and employee. Employers have an expanded time in filing renewals while employees can prolong their length of stay in lawful status due to the extended days of waiting for CW1 renewal releases.

The proposed 240-day extension is good but it only serves as a “band aid” solution or a “pain reliever.” Even if the U.S. Department of Labor extends the CW program for five more years, no permanent status awaits foreign workers at the end of the extension period. I felt relieved by the proposed 240-day extension but the fact is, zeroing CW1 workers is still in effect come 2014, or if extended up to 2019, the same still holds true—temporary relief is being offered to satisfy the needs of the islands’ investors. The immediate passage of S. 744 is the right thing to do as a permanent solution to this chaotic immigration issue affecting foreign workers in the CNMI.

Some say the USCIS and some employers (not all) connived to reduce the number of foreign workers by way of non-compliance that resulted in denials. Thus, if renewal is denied, foreign workers are the one that are severely affected and will be forced for voluntarily exit to avoid accumulating unlawful status.

The DHS proposal is a very timely because foreign workers on the island are now looking for other countries in need of skilled and professional workers. The U.S. Department of Labor must also act now on the current status of foreign workers in the CNMI if indeed the United States wanted to maintain world-class highly skilled workers by removing obstacles to their remaining in the United States before it’s too late because of being unlawful aliens.

On Nov. 28, 2011, upon implementation of CW1 final regulation, the status of foreign workers was already diagnosed as “carcinogenic.” Since then, relief had been done via S-744, but until now there are no signs of approval. Days, months, and years have passed and the CW problem has become “chronic.” Instead of offering a permanent solution like a pathway to citizenship, a band aid and/or pain reliever approach by the proposed extension for 240 days is being offered, like a “raft made of cork,” a floater to avoid sinking.

Under the CNMI Department of Labor rules, nonresident workers were directly subjected to train resident workers. I would not be here for more than 16 years if compliance with this agreement had been enforced. This agreement ceased to take effect last November 2011, the effective date of transitional workers program. Almost three years now from the effective date of CW1 transitional workers program, the same training arrangement was instituted, but this time by means of $150 financial training allocation sourced out from each foreign worker’s processing of CW1 permit. Two years of continued hands-on training is more than enough to eliminate at least 50 percent of nonresident workers, but why does a huge number still exists? Might as well give us foreign workers permanent immigration status rather than to do more harm, promises, and wishes that are far from fulfilment.

This is an initiative calling for all foreign worker parents of U.S. citizen children to start educating their kids to learn their parents’ skills, especially those that are turning 18. There is no available local workforce, according to our CNMI local leaders; therefore, foreign worker parents should start teaching their children their own skills for possible replacement come December 2014. Hands-on training are all what we need to do to prepare these kids to be included in the local workforce if indeed the end is near for all foreign workers’ lawful status. Four thousand kids, if given additional skills aside from their high school diploma, after turning 18 will eventually replace 50 percent of foreign workers after the transition period ends. At least these kids are U.S. citizens, have no fear of being unlawful citizen even though obviously ethnic disparity still exists. Whether extension is approved or not, the same is true—no permanent residency is being offered. Might as well prepare these kids before leaving them behind on the island. Not all kids want to go home with their parents.

Carlito J. Marquez
Lower Base, Saipan

Jun Dayao Dayao
This post is published under the Contributing Author. He/she does not normally work for Saipan Tribune but contributes for a specific topic or series.

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