Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) requested the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security yesterday to set aside rejected CNMI-Only Transitional Worker permit applications for the upcoming fiscal year 2019.
While unsure about meeting the April 2018 deadline for the new bill to extend the CNMI transitional period by 10 years, Sablan sent a second letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen dated Feb. 26, requesting to set aside, for the meantime, rejected CW permit applications pending the fate of S. 2325, or U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) legislation extending the CNMI transitional period for another 10 years.
Sablan simultaneously introduced H.R. 4869, an exact copy of the bill, in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Part of Sablan’s request would revert U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ reduction of the available CW slots for fiscal year 2019 by just one, as has been done several times in the past.
If Sablan’s request is accommodated, USCIS would set the fiscal year 2019 cap at 9,997 instead of 4,999, which USCIS announced in late November 2017.
Sablan noted “significant progress” made toward seeking legislation to extend the transitional period from 2019 to another 10 years, effectively extending essential programs with it such as the CW program and the E-2C investor program. A hearing on Murkowski’s bill was held last Feb. 6.
“In light of this progress and the CW application period for fiscal year 2019 soon approaching, I respectfully ask that you adjust the fiscal year 2019 cap to 9,997, consistent with the requirements of existing law,” wrote Sablan to Nielsen, referring to the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008, which mandates the CW cap to be lower than the previous fiscal year and the six-month period for renewing CW permits, which starts April.
“Alternatively, I request that applications that would otherwise be returned because of the current fiscal year 2019 cap of 4,999, instead be racked, pending the outcome of [S. 2325],” he added.
Sablan cited the testimony of Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs Doug Domenech at the Feb. 6, 2018, U.S. Senate hearing. Domenech had recognized the CNMI’s need for labor to sustain its economic growth while affirming the “[Trump] administration’s policy” prioritizing American employment.
“[S. 2325 and H.R. 4869] addresses both of these concerns,” Domenech had said.
S. 2325 seeks to reset the CW cap back to 13,000, extend the transitional period by 10 years, and steadily reduce the CW cap by 500 every fiscal year. It also establishes a new form of CW permit, known as the CW-3 permit, for employees who have been working in the CNMI since fiscal year 2014 and are to be renewed every three years, contrary to the CW-1 permit, which is renewed annually, among many others.
CW-3 permits are renewed provided that the applicant exits the CNMI for 30 consecutive days during the six-month renewal period.
Highlighting the 500 annual reduction, Sablan noted that the reduction was included in the legislation to encourage the replacement of foreign workers with U.S. workers, which he added is a “trend that the Government Accountability Office has reported to be occurring” but cannot be completed at the end of 2019 without “significant economic disruption.”