With just three days before their papers expire, a cloud of uncertainty continues to hover over the future of foreign workers who are either under the humanitarian parole program or holders of employment authorization documents.
Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) said the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant stance has dashed any hopes he had that extending those papers would happen.
“There’s [three] more days and we have not received any notice from [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services] or [Department of Homeland Security] whether they would continue or discontinue the humanitarian parole for the CNMI, for spouses or parents of U.S. and [Freely Associated States] citizens, CNMI permanent residents, and those caregivers who take care of the elderly and persons with special needs.
“I also made numerous calls to [USCIS and DHS], but I’m not hopeful anymore. This is an anti-immigrant administration.”
Sablan wanted to have legislation that would take care of these workers. “At least they could get NMI residency status, those who are qualified. And at a certain point in their life, if they are qualified, if they choose to apply for a green card. If they are not qualified, they would be eligible to remain as CNMI-only residents.”
“Some of these people have been here even before we became a Commonwealth, over 40 years. I could count the number of stateless kids that were born here before 1978 to non-Trust Territory and U.S. citizen parents. Who’s going to do their work if they don’t get their humanitarian parole? They [USCIS and DHS] should decide now so people can make plans.”
Sablan said this would be a good time for Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to use his close ties with the White House. “The governor said he has formed a friendship with President Trump. Hopefully he would have allowed [the extension]. …The governor was in Washington D.C. for the funeral of George H.W. Bush. I don’t know if he stopped by and met with officials from DHS or USCIS on this very important issue.
“I hope that if they decide to discontinue this, they give a 90-day period for people to make plans so they could exit the Commonwealth without breaking the law and without being overstayers.”
Mildred M. Pabilando and the other 2,000 foreign workers who are under the program continue to wait for USCIS to make a decision. She is under the humanitarian parole program and an EAD holder.
“We’re still hoping for some good news. Both of my documents will expire on the same day [Dec. 31] and I’m anxious [about] what would happen next, especially for me. I’m a single mom and I have three kids.
“It’s hard to celebrate for the coming year. I have no idea what would happen next and I don’t have any back-up plan, that’s why it is really scary for me. I’m not prepared to go back home yet. I’m the only one who is working. There’s still three days left before Dec. 31, but we have not received any notice from USCIS,” Pabilando told Saipan Tribune.
She said her humanitarian parole usually arrives in the second week of December. “We’re still waiting for USCIS’ decision if there’s going to be an extension or not. Our current situation after Super Typhoon Yutu makes it even harder.”
“I always have to stop working whenever I renew my EAD. I have to wait for its release, before I return to work. Usually, I receive my humanitarian parole [document] in the second week of December. But I haven’t received any.”
Pabilando, who works for POI Aviation as an airport service agent at the Francisco C. Ada-Saipan International Airport, said she immediately applies for her EAD whenever she gets her humanitarian parole “because it takes two to three months for the processing of EADs. Sometimes more than that. The last time I renewed my EAD, I submitted my renewal in December and it went out in April the next year,” added Pabilando, who knows of 15 others who are in the same situation.
Foreign worker advocate Itos Feliciano, who is also the moderator of the CNMI Foreign Workers Facebook page, said it would cause a big problem if no decision is made before the expiration at the end of this month.
“Hopefully, the renewal would correspond with the 240-day extension period,” he said.
He said that Gov. Ralph DLG Torres has assured him that he’s doing the best that he can for the extension. “I even suggested that there should be a Plan B, just in case the humanitarian parole and EADs won’t be released before the expiration date. The important thing here is, there’s support from the CNMI government.”
One solution for those under the humanitarian parole program or EAD holders is to either grant them permanent or CNMI-only residency status, or allow them to apply for a green card so they won’t be an additional burden to USCIS.
Feliciano said a lot of foreign workers under the program or EAD holders are worried and are asking for any update. “Two thousand workers would lose their status. I think that’s negligence on the part of the federal government. They should have acted on it immediately.”
Last October, Torres wrote U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to raise the workers’ concerns. Saipan Tribune tried to get an update from the administration but they have not yet to respond as of press time.
Some CNMI guest workers, when Public Law 110-229 or the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 was enacted the following year, were granted humanitarian parole status for various reasons during the transition period. Caregivers were also included.
USCIS issued humanitarian parole to foreign workers who were left without employment status. These workers either had minor children who are U.S. citizens or were given transitional conditional permits (umbrella permits).