Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) is again urging Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to use his direct connection to President Donald J. Trump to enable Sablan’s two immigration-related bills about the CNMI to move forward.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has removed the Philippines from the eligibility of using the H-2B visa, while U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services discontinued the CNMI parole program.
In response, Sablan introduced two measures—H.R. 559 or the Northern Mariana Islands Long-Term Legal Residents Relief Act and H.R. 560 or the NMI Residents Relief Act—to help affected CNMI residents.
H.R. 559 hopes to address the issue of legal workers under the CNMI parole program, while H.R. 560 aims to give improved status to long-term guest workers.
“He [Torres] is a friend of the Trump administration and I’m not. So, I encourage him to do everything that he can to solve this [CNMI labor and immigration issues]. If he needs to see the President, then he should. He needs to see as many people as he can under the Trump administration,” Sablan said.
H.R. 559—if it becomes law—would help solve the problem of spouses and immediate relatives of citizens of Freely Associated States and spouses or IRs of U.S. citizens; parents of U.S. citizen children who are under and over 21 years old; CNMI permanent residents, and stateless individuals.
Sablan also clarified that individuals who are under the E-2C CNMI-Only visas are no longer included in H.R. 559. “I am working hard to get DHS to agree to allow me to include them since they are currently also here on humanitarian parole. I still have a few days to work on this matter for the others who are covered in H.R. 559 and the bigger group of CW workers in H.R. 560.”
He added that he managed to reach a compromise in the previous U.S. Congress that resulted in the passage of H.R. 339 that became U.S. Public Law 115-53. That added 2,002 slots to the cap on the CNMI-Only transitional visa, while H.R. 5956 was signed into P.L. 115-218 that extended the program up to 2029. “I was able to do those before, but now? I don’t think so. I am sorry for that.”
Sablan is confident that the House would pass an immigration bill. “We will pass something in the House and would like to see that it covers everybody. If not, then we will cover those that are urgent and continue to work on the rest. There are so many things going on that I’m focused on and this is just one [immigration] item. I want to focus on the others since they are also important to our community and our islands.”
Sablan will help preside over a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on Feb. 27 (early Thursday morning in the CNMI) for his H.R. 559 to examine the status of those under the CNMI categorical parole that remain in limbo after the decision of the Trump administration to discontinue the program last year.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Northern Marianas Business Alliance Corp. president Michael S. Sablan, who is also Triple J’s Finance and Administration vice president, are among those who will be testifying before the committee.
U.S. Department of the Interior-Office of Insular Affairs direct Nickolao Pula, Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, and U.S. Government Accountability Office-International Affairs and Trade director Dr. David B. Goetnick are the other witnesses.
Torres, Triple J’s Sablan, and the other witnesses would provide the House committee information on why those who are under the CNMI categorical parole need to be given legal resident status.
Some of the people under this group, who are called stateless, were born in the CNMI after local officials chose to become a U.S. territory but before the islands were legally accepted as a commonwealth.
Former president Barack Obama offered humanitarian parole for these stateless individuals to legally stay in the CNMI. Their status does not grant them the right to travel to the U.S. mainland.