While President Obama’s executive order on immigration will affect millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. mainland, it will only have a minimal effect in the CNMI since a large chunk of the islands’ nonresident population is legal, said Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP).
“The President’s actions were generally expected to address the plight of individuals who are not legally present in the United States. My focus has been on individuals who are legally present, in most cases because they were allowed to enter the Northern Mariana Islands under Commonwealth immigration law.”
Sablan also provided a simple explanation in his weekly e-kilili newsletter. “President Obama announced on Thursday that he will be using his executive authority to address the situation of some of the 11 million persons who are not legally present in the United States. Although the Senate passed a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill in July 2013, the House of Representatives has not taken action. So the President stepped in. His action is primarily aimed at persons who do not have a legal status.”
In the CNMI, Sablan said “CW workers, E-2C investors, and the immediate relatives of U.S. and FAS citizens and caregivers who have been granted humanitarian parole are all legally present. But there may be some in the NMI, who have lost their legal status, who could benefit.”
He also reiterated that the president’s action does not provide any new pathway to citizenship, “but may make it easier for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and others eligible for naturalization by allowing the use of credit cards to pay the $680 fee. Currently, only cash, check, or money order is accepted.”
In addition, Sablan said he’s been working on CNMI-specific policy decisions in a way that did not require presidential action, namely the extension of the CW program for another five years by the Secretary of Labor and extension of the availability of parole for the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens for another two years by the director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.
“And I was successful at reaching both of those goals this year,” he said.
Gov. Eloy S. Inos said he has reached out to Sablan and asked him to dissect the President’s executive order “because there are a lot of areas in that executive order that resemble what we’re trying to do here.
The governor said Obama’s executive order holds a lot of promise and could be a godsend to the thousands of longterm nonresident workers in the CNMI, if they’re included in the executive action.
“They’re parents of U.S. citizens and a lot of them have young children. I asked him [Sablan] to take a look at that. I’m worried, though, that the Republican Congress may not go for that and we might be back to an old gridlock situation. But that executive order, if we do it right, it should really have some benefit here especially for the longtime nonresident folks. We’re talking about people who pay taxes, are working, they’re out in the open, and they’re legal. In the next few days, President Obama and Vice President [Joe] Biden will go out in the nation and try to sell this idea.”
Human right activities and former Rota teacher Wendy Doromal said Obama has no choice but issue the executive order in the absence of a cooperative U.S. House of Representatives in helping fix the country’s broken immigration system.
“As an activist for immigration reform, I view President Obama’s action as a first step, a huge step, and a historic step in the right direction. As long as the U.S. Congress fails to act on this issue, the crisis will continue, forcing millions to live in fear and uncertainty. President Obama is sending the members of Congress a message to stop the political paralysis and get a bill passed. Hopefully, they will act and the CNMI’s legal nonresidents will get the long overdue status that they deserve.”
About 270,000 additional undocumented aliens would be eligible for relief under the expansion of Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program. In the 2012 plan, the applicants had to be younger than 31 years of age and had to have arrived in the United States before June 15, 2007. Obama has expanded that plan to take away the age cap and he changed the arrival date to before Jan. 1, 2010.
Unfortunately, only a few in the CNMI would qualify for Obama’s executive order, Doromal said.
“Some CNMI nonresidents could qualify under these programs. However, what is really needed is for the [Consolidated Natural Resources Act] to be amended to include a status provision that would benefit the CNMI’s legal longtime (5 or more years) nonresidents—whether longtime workers, E-2 investors or other categories of legal nonresidents. These longtime de facto citizens deserve to receive permanent residency after their years and decades of contributing to the CNMI as dedicated workers, law-abiding citizens and taxpayers.”
Marianas Advocates for Humanitarian Affairs founding president Rene Reyes said the President’s executive order is only a temporary relief and doesn’t address the concerns of longterm nonresident workers in the CNMI who not only have U.S. citizen children but also pay taxes and contribute to the local economy.
Reyes asked Sablan to call the attention of policymakers in Washington, D.C., about the plight of these longterm nonresident workers in the CNMI who will be out of status once the CW program expires in 2019.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service said that on Nov. 20, 2014, the President announced a series of executive actions to crack down on illegal immigration at the border, prioritize deporting felons not families, and require certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay taxes in order to temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation.
These initiatives include:
Expanding the population eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to young people who came to this country before turning 16 years old and have been present since Jan. 1, 2010, and extending the period of DACA and work authorization from two years to three years.
Allowing parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who have been present in the country since January 1, 2010, to request deferred action and employment authorization for three years, in a new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability program, provided they pass required background checks.
Expanding the use of provisional waivers of unlawful presence to include the spouses and sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents and the sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.
Modernizing, improving and clarifying immigrant and nonimmigrant programs to grow our economy and create jobs.
Promoting citizenship education and public awareness for lawful permanent residents and providing an option for naturalization applicants to use credit cards to pay the application fee.
Further information about the President’s announcement is available here http://www.dhs.gov/immigration-action.