When U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denies applications for CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program visa permits, Sen. Sixto K. Igisomar (R-Saipan) believes guidelines should be in place to inform foreign workers about what they can do next.
In a Senate session yesterday on Capitol Hill, Igisomar said the CNMI Department of Labor or even policy-makers should inform foreign workers on their next course of action following a newly declined or canceled CW-1 application.
“We must have some sort of guidance or pro-activity from our DOL or our policy-makers or [even] from the employers themselves. Who is responsible for the workers and where do they go?” asked Igisomar.
According to the senator, several foreign workers who have had their CW-1 petitions denied have contacted his office on the matter, seeking assistance.
“Some of these employees are released from work because USCIS denied their CW-1 petition,” he said. These employees are “trying to figure out what to do.”
“Some of them have gone underground for fear that they might be deported by their employer and their…families left behind.”
Igisomar said several workers have also reported that their employers, upon learning that their CW-1 petitions have been denied, cancelled their employment. In response, Igisomar said there must be some sort of guidance for foreign workers, or a frequently-asked-questions type to educate employers and employees on what they should know if their petition isn cancelled.
“There has got to be some form of guidance or outreach to give them information ahead,” he said, adding that suddenly informing an employee that they have to exit the CNMI within 10 days is unreasonable.
Workers who have a family in the CNMI under the CW-2 visa—the visa that allows relatives of a CW-1 worker to enter the CNMI as dependents of the CW-1 applicant—are most affected, he said.
In addition to the CW-1 program crisis, the senator maintained that an effort must be done in order to repatriate the workers.
“I know that Gov. Ralph DLG Torres is doing his best out there but there is also this thing that I also do not want to forget—that there are some CW-1 employees out there with CW-2 families that are somehow being stranded. We cannot tolerate any employer who does not take the effort to make sure that there is a good transition for the lives of these workers,” he said.
Sen. Jude Hofschneider (R-Tinian) agreed that there is a “lack of guidance” for CW-1 workers. Hofschneider said his office has had its fair share of CW-1 calls for assistance. He added that one worker was reportedly informed to exit the CNMI within 10 days from Dec. 27, 2017.
“That’s a tall task to ask someone who has been around for the last 20-some years,” said Hofschneider.
He pointed out that back in 2012, a Senate effort was put forth to “alleviate” the CW-1 crisis. “We came out with a series of public hearings [back then] to see what we can do with the nonresident workers who have been here for over 10 years legally, but unfortunately that was a fragmented approach because there was no [uniformity],” he said, adding that the House and the Executive Branch at the time “did not see the same views.”
Had the effort been supported, Hofschneider said, there could have been some “wiggle room.”
“The CW-1 issue is front and center and basically it is something that everyone in the CNMI should be concerned [about],” he said, adding that the CW-1 program was somehow a vehicle to measure how far the CNMI economic successes could move forward.