Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) acknowledged that Gov. Ralph DLG Torres has been an ardent supporter for granting improved status to long-term guest workers in the CNMI, as he pushes again—his fourth try—to grant CNMI-only status to foreign nationals who make up a large part of the Commonwealth’s labor force.
Sablan, who is seeking a sixth term as the CNMI delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, introduced H.R. 6578 in the 115th Congress. He hopes the bill would gain traction if the Democrats take the Congress’ leadership.
“To be very honest, the governor, even when he was in the Legislature, he was never against it. And he mentioned in 902 that there’s language in there, so I’m asking him recognizing that,” said Sablan.
“In fact, H.R. 5588 or 5586, in the previous Congress, that one that I introduced, that language came from the 902 [report] product. The only thing I changed was for E2C investors, because that was left out.”
Sablan said that’s why he wrote Torres on Aug. 1, urging him to publicly support his bill that would create a pathway to a permanent U.S. residency status for long-term guest workers in the CNMI.
In his response to Sablan, Torres said it has been his personal and official position in pushing to provide long-term guest workers “economic security” in their status in the CNMI.
“I have been consistent in my belief that improved status is good for the CNMI both economically and socially in order to recognize the contributions long-term guest workers have and continue to make in our islands and in an effort to prevent the separation of families,” said Torres.
He added that Sablan should do whatever he thinks is beneficial for the people of the Commonwealth. “As our current delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, it is your responsibility to do what is right for our Commonwealth and the people who call these islands home.”
Sablan said the bills he introduced that would grant improved status to long-term workers have been unpopular to many CNMI residents. But, he added, granting long-term guest workers improved status is the right thing to do and would benefit the local workforce.
”If we can do this, as the number of CW decreases, the number [of workers] will not actually decrease since we will still have many of these workers here [under] CNMI-only status for now. Temporary for the first five years and after that they could eligible to apply for a green card.”
“And if they qualify, then they get a green card. That’s very unpopular and I have already been told by someone that, although they had always voted for me, they are not voting for me this time because of that. It’s okay, I can go to sleep at night doing that.”
Sablan said he also included in the language of H.R. 6578 the E2C investors since they are also part of the CNMI’s economy. “I included E2C, which is about 200. These are people who have businesses, who provide jobs to those long term non-U.S. citizens here.”