The CNMI right now is awash with federal officials.
Representatives of federal government agencies are on Saipan, including U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Douglas W. Domenech, who was appointed by President Donald J. Trump to lead the federal panel in the ongoing Section 902 Talks.
Officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration under the U.S. Department of Labor have also arrived.
There has been no official word nor confirmation about these visits but independent sources have affirmed their presence on island. It was reported that the federal and CNMI panels met for the second round of the 902 Talks where immigration and labor were among the issues that were discussed. A delegation may also visit the island of Tinian.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres leads the CNMI panel in the 902 Talks, which is provided for in the Covenant that established the CNMI in political union with the U.S.
Section 902 of the Covenant mandates representatives of both governments to meet and discuss issues that affect their relationship. That series of meetings became known as the 902 Consultations where after the talks the entire panel would submit a report and recommendation based on their discussions to the U.S. Congress.
Work and immigration related issues—like the H-2B visa, CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program or CW1, and categorical and conditional parole—are among the hot button topics that are expected to take a central role in discussions.
Employers use the H-2B visa to hire foreign skilled workers to meet the demand for construction and other development projects in the CNMI.
Early this year, DHS removed the Philippines from the list of countries eligible for the visa program. That decision caused hundreds of Filipino construction workers to be sent home.
Also, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has yet to release the new regulations for the CW1 visa program.
DoL just issued an interim final rule that now requires a prevailing wage and a temporary labor certificate when hiring or renewing petitions for temporary foreign guest workers.
The categorical and conditional parole programs are the other issues for the CNMI. USCIS has discontinued the humanitarian parole program and employment authorization document last December, which could displace more than 1,000 workers and their families in the CNMI.
The conditional parole authority allows Chinese visitors to enter the CNMI without a U.S. visa.