GCEA seeks repeal of touchback rule


The Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors is exploring the possibility of having the “touchback” rule of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service repealed.

In an interview with Alex Sablan, who is a member of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors, he said the council is still working with Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan (Ind-MP) to look for ways to get USCIS’ touchback rule repealed.

“USCIS came back with an extension for two years that would allow for touchbacks to be instituted in 2022. It is still our effort to try to work with Congressman Kilili to work on legislation that will find more concrete process behind the CNMI-Only Workers visas, the CW process in renewals, and to look at the idea of repealing the touchback provision because it really doesn’t make a lot of sense,” he said.

Sablan says the council is doing everything it can to help minimize the impact the touchback will have with the CNMI because, without CW workers, there’s an insufficient local workforce base.

“We’re hopeful that we can have those conversations and see if we can find a way to minimize the impact on the community. The focal point is always going to be, ‘Let’s look at filling jobs with U.S. workers first,’ but we all know that we do not have a sufficient local workforce base and we need to augment with a CW program,” he said.

Alex Sablan explained that the idea of cutting back on the CW workforce does not help the CNMI economy grow.

“We need a more permanent structure behind the CW program. The diminishing numbers annually do not help us to grow the economy. We’ve had really good reports over the years, good studies determining we do not have a sufficient local workforce base. We do need to transition people out of maybe government into the private sector and diversify the economy into other industries, so that we have good paying jobs for everyone,” he said.

Alex Sablan is hopeful that the council, in collaboration with Sablan’s office, can find a more solid footing on The CW program.

According to Saipan Tribune archives, last August 2020, USCIS modified its policy on implementing the touchback rule—the requirement that CWs leave the CNMI for at least 30 days after two renewals of the CW-1 visa classification.

USCIS stated that CW-1 long-term workers, as defined in the interim final rule, are exempted from the departure requirement.

In modifying its policy, USCIS will only consider CW-1 petitions approved on or after June 18, 2020, when they apply the requirement that certain CW-1 nonimmigrant workers depart the CNMI for a period of at least 30 continuous days.

Prior to the modification, USCIS counted all consecutive petition validity periods, even those approved prior to June 18, 2020, when determining which CW-1 nonimmigrant workers are subject to the temporary departure requirement.

Kimberly Bautista Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Bautista Esmores has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.