Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) reintroduced his bill last week in the U.S. House of Representatives after the opening session of the 115th Congress. House Resolution 339 aims to increase the number of people allowed to hold the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker Nonimmigrant Visa or CW1 visa.
HR 339 is the same bill as HR 6401 or the Northern Mariana Islands Economic Expansion Act. The measure was already referred to the Natural Resources and Judiciary committees of the House on Jan. 5.
HR 6401 aims to amend Public Law 94-241 that approved the Covenant to establish the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in political union with the U.S. HR 6401 passed the House in late November but the Senate in the last Congress failed to act on it before it adjourned.
If the bill becomes law, it would add 2,002 more workers to the current limit of 12,998, bringing the numerical cap to 15,000, which would return it to the same level of 15,000, almost four years ago.
“The 115th Congress convened last Tuesday. I know we can work successfully in a Republican-led Congress, like we have done for the last two years. Though the prospect of a new President on Jan. 20 creates some uncertainty, I have no doubt about what the priorities will continue to be for the people I represent in the CNMI,” said Sablan.
“The bill provides an extra 2,002 workers—returning us to the 2013 level of 15,000—but only for 2017. [However], even with 15,000 foreign workers (based on CNMI government data), majority of the jobs in the Marianas economy will still be held by U.S. workers,” he added.
HR 339 would also raise to $200 the fee that employers would pay for each CW1 permit applied. The money would then be used to train locals that would replace foreign workers.
CNMI government officials, led by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, the Strategic Economic Development Council, the Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., and other sectors from the community support HR 339.
Sablan said that addressing the need for more workers to help the CNMI’s growing economy remains one of his central concerns. “That means making sure that U.S. immigration works to help, not hurt us and making sure that our own people get the education they need to lead productive lives.”
He added that he looks forward to President-elect Donald J. Trump’s promise to rebuild infrastructure. “If we want to continue our economic growth, we have to have the infrastructure that development requires.”
“I look forward to President-elect Trump’s promise to rebuild infrastructure. The Marianas already lags behind the rest of America when it comes to the cost of electricity, 24-hour water, and adequate waste disposal systems.”