Kilili: USCIS’ decision will be on ‘case-by-case’ basis


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will decide each application for permanent status in the Marianas on a case-by-case basis to see if the applicant meets the Long-Term Residents Relief Act criteria listed by USCIS, according to Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan over the weekend.

In response to Saipan Tribune’s request for clarification on the USCIS announcement last Thursday, Sablan emphasized that anyone who reads the criteria and thinks they may be eligible should immediately begin the application process.

“They only have until Aug. 17, 2020,” Sablan said.

USCIS announced that the application period for those seeking the new CNMI long-term resident status opened last Wednesday, Feb. 19. Eligible aliens will have 180 days to apply for the new status, which was created by the NMI Long-Term Legal Residents Act, signed by President Donald J. Trump on June 25, 2019.

Sablan declined to respond to specific questions whether the USCIS announcement will cover only those 1,000-plus people who have been living and working in the CNMI under humanitarian parole, besides saying that, according to information that USCIS provided him when he was writing the Long-Term Legal Residents Relief Act in December 2018, there are approximately 1,000 people in the Marianas who fit into the categories and who could be eligible.

“We recommend that anyone who thinks they may be eligible submit an application to USCIS,” Sablan said.

Ultimately, it will be USCIS that will make the final decision based on all the particular circumstances of each individual and the evidence they present, he said, adding that his office is not allowed to provide legal advice regarding anyone’s eligibility.

“I can say, however, that the announcement that USCIS is opening applications for CNMI resident status…is good news for everyone covered by the new law, for their families, and for their employers,” he said.

With CNMI resident status, people will be able to live and work in the Marianas as long as they want, without having to worry about applying for humanitarian parole year after year.

“I want to emphasize, however, that the application window is only open for 180 days. So, everyone who thinks they may be eligible should apply now. The deadline is Aug. 17, 2020,” he said.

He said the congressional office, as always, can help make sure that anyone, who thinks they may be eligible, knows how and where to apply for this new status.

“And we can help track applications to make sure papers are not lost and that decisions are made without unnecessary delay,” he said.

Public charge rule

On the public charge rule matter, Sablan said the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a nationwide injunction on application of the public charge rule on Jan. 27.

“That means that the Trump administration may now put the policy into effect,” he said.

A public charge is a person who receives government cash assistance for income or long-term care. That means one who received food stamps or Medicare, among other government-funded benefits.

Sablan said there continues to be numerous challenges to the public charge rule in lower courts and eventually the Supreme Court may rule on the merits of those challenges.

As for specific questions about how the Trump administration will apply the public charge rule, Sablan referred Saipan Tribune to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

USCIS has come out with new forms in connection with the implementation of its inadmissibility on public grounds final rule, making it more difficult for lower-income immigrants to adjust their immigration status and obtain a “green card” or have their residency status approved.

Some long-term alien workers are hoping that Sablan or the USCIS would come up with definite statements regarding eligibility for the new status for long-term residents of CNMI and the public charge rule.

Rina (who asked that her last name be witheld), 50, a Filipino, said her only question is if those eligible are the 1,000 people who were granted humanitarian parole. Based on the USCIS criteria, Rina said she falls under two categories that USCIS listed as eligible. She said that she is the parent of a U.S. citizen child on Nov. 27, 2011, and continues to have such family relationship with the citizen. She added that she has resided continuously and lawfully in the CNMI from Nov. 28, 2009, through June 25, 2019.

Rina said she is also eligible to apply for green card status this year, but like many others who are in the same situation, the public charge rule issue has confused her.

“The public charge rule scares us because we had Medicaid before for our U.S. citizen child. It’s our child who was the applicant and not me,” she said.

Had the alien parents known that USCIS would later use the Medicaid application against them, Rina said that no alien parents would have let their U.S. citizen child apply for it.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.