Kilili adds more cosponsors to status bill

Two more congressional members have co-sponsored the Northern Mariana Islands Workforce Stabilization Act, bringing the total number of bipartisan supporters to 34, according to Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) yesterday.

Reps. Gene Green (D-Texas) and Michael Capuano (D-Massachusetts) added their names to Sablan’s H.R. 6578 last Thursday.

The Workforce Stabilization Act gives long-term workers in the Marianas the opportunity to obtain green cards and lawful permanent resident status. Sablan included a definition of long-term worker in his Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act, Public Law 115-218, earlier this year.

“It is a longstanding goal of mine to provide lawful permanent resident status to legacy foreign workers,” Sablan said. “And Gov. [Ralph DLG] Torres decided to support this goal in his Section 902 consultations with the Obama administration.

“The problem is that the Department of Homeland Security expressed concerns in the 902 report, sent to Congress last year, about any grant of status that would depend on prior immigration status based on Commonwealth law. They thought this would be difficult to implement because access to comprehensive records is not guaranteed.

“So, what we are doing with the Stabilization Act is to make implementation depend on prior federal immigration status for which the department does have comprehensive records.”

Long-term workers are defined in Public Law 115-218 as persons who have been granted Commonwealth-Only Transitional Worker, or CW, permits in all of fiscal years 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.

Sablan’s Workforce Stabilization Act also provides status to foreign investors, who were first admitted under Commonwealth law, but who now have E-2C, Commonwealth-Only Investor, visas issued by the U.S.

Sablan has been working for years to give long-term workers and investors, and other groups, who were overlooked by the original federal immigration law, a more certain future. In 2011, he introduced H.R. 1466 and had it favorably reported by the House Natural Resources and Judiciary Committees. Opposition from the Fitial administration, however, prevented a vote on Sablan’s bill by the House.

“You have to be persistent,” Sablan said. “In Congress, you cannot give up if you want to succeed.

“And getting permanent status for long-term workers and investors is a goal that will benefit those individuals, as well as our economy.

“Granting improved status to long-term workers would relieve their employers of the expense and anxiety of applying for CW permits. It would reduce the number of CW workers we need. And improved status would finally give those workers and the investors, who were granted admission under Commonwealth immigration law, the security of knowing they can be permanent members of our community.

“These are people we know and whose value to our economy is well established,” Sablan added.

Although Sablan does not expect his Workforce Stabilization Act to move in the current Congress, he wants to be ready with strong support from a long list of cosponsors when the 116th Congress convenes in January. A Democratic majority in the House of Representatives is expected to act quickly on immigration legislation, to which Sablan could add his bill. (PR)

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