‘I haven’t given up on HR 560’


Although there has been a strong pushback on Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan’s (Ind-MP) H.R. 560 or the “Northern Mariana Islands Legal Residents Relief Act of 2021” in the U.S. Congress, Sablan says he has not lost hope and he will not give up on the legislation.

Sablan said in an interview that, although it has taken a while and it seems like there hasn’t been any progress with H.R. 560, he wants to assure the CNMI community that he continues to fight for the measure and that he has not given up on it.

“I’m still I’m working on it. I’ve never let go of this since I started working on it. Nobody thought H.R. 559 was going to pass but look at that, it did and it helped almost 1,900 individuals. With this resolution, more individuals could benefit but unfortunately it hasn’t passed the Congress yet and cannot be signed into law,” he said.


Sablan explained that immigration is a difficult matter to discuss right now, but he continues to push for it with his congressional colleagues. However, at this point, he cannot predict how soon the resolution could pass Congress.

“Every time I get close to the finish line, I get a pushback. I’m not going to predict Congress on an immigration issue. Immigration is a really difficult issue in Congress right now. It is very partisan. Even though it is difficult, I am still working on it. I’m pushing for it, but bills of that nature do not go through regular order, they go through what we call suspension of the rules and, with that you need 280 votes to pass a bill in the House, or two thirds. Under regular order, you need 218,” Sablan explained.

Currently, Sablan said, he has gained the support of the entire Democratic caucus, which would be about 220 votes in support of the resolution’s passage.

Back in January 2021, Sablan re-introduced H.R. 560 which, if granted, would essentially grant permanent status to certain CNMI-only Transitional Workers and foreign investors who were originally admitted under Commonwealth immigration law.

In addition to making long-term workers and investors eligible for permanent residence in the Marianas, the new resolution gives those eligible for this permanent status under Public Law 116-24 another chance to apply and makes certain family members eligible too.

In addition, after five years, these Marianas permanent residents could apply for U.S. permanent residency.

The resolution also ensures that these Marianas permanent residents and CWs can get relief and assistance in the aftermath of natural disasters.

He said the new H.R. 560 also addresses concerns with the implementation of P.L. 115-218, the Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act, including clarifying congressional intent on touchback timing, extending the validity of an approved Commonwealth occupational survey, and increasing the time for CWs to apply for visas to enter the Marianas.

P.L. 115-218 or the Northern Mariana Islands Workforce Act of 2018 extended the CW-1 program up to 2029 and set a numerical cap of 13,000 for fiscal year 2019. The cap was slashed by 500 in fiscal year 2020, and three more times up to fiscal year 2023. Fiscal years 2024 to 2029 will have a reduction of 1,000 each year and by 2030 the numerical cap is 1,000.

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.

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