Delegate Gregorio Kilil C. Sablan (Ind-MP) would be pushing for the inclusion of language that would grant long-term guest workers CNMI-only residence legal status in an immigration reform bill being drafted by a bipartisan group in the 116th U.S. Congress.
The new measure would essentially mirror S. 744, or the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, that was drafted in the 113th Congress by the so-called “Gang of Eight”—four members each from the Democratic and Republican parties.
This time, Sablan has asked the bipartisan group in the 116th U.S. Congress to reserve a section of the immigration bill for language that would focus solely on the Marianas.
“For us to put language, put in a marker on the draft. So Section 2109 is, like, for the CNMI,” he said.
In the old bill, S. 774, Section 2109 sought to establish the CNMI-only lawful permanent resident status for long-term legal residents of the Commonwealth, therefore granting these individuals an immigrant visa or a lawful U.S. permanent status beginning five years after its enactment.
“I am going to try and use that same section and include language for the CNMI, for our long-term workers that all of whom are here legally. The compromise that I am making, in my own opinion, is that we give these individuals CNMI permanent resident status. So, they won’t be accused of jumping the line,” said Sablan
“Then, as their children turns 21 or their financial situation improved, and if they could qualify for a green card, and they should, nothing should stop them. In case they don’t want a U.S. green card, then they would have permanent legal residence status in the CNMI.”
He added that granting long-term workers permanent status would lessen the tedious process of having to schedule interviews with the U.S. embassy every time they visit their home countries. “They can then travel to the U.S. with a [tourist] visa and they can travel to the Philippines anytime without getting advanced parole and other nonsense. If they have permanent residency, they won’t be needing that.”
S. 774 was introduced by Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in the 113th Congress and co-sponsored by the other seven members of the bipartisan group. The U.S. Senate passed S. 744 on a 68-32 vote, but it was not considered by the Republican-controlled House and the legislation died.