Kilili: Our working group is close

Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) has shared in a social media post that the working group formed to negotiate a CW-1 program extension is “close” to getting a deal done.

In a video outlining his legislative plans for 2018, Sablan said that the bipartisan working group led by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is close to reaching an agreement on the provisions of the draft legislation to extend the CW-1 program.

“I think 2019 is too early—we will need foreign workers in the Marianas economy even beyond 2019—so I oppose the cuts [to the program],” he said.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has reduced the number of foreign workers that would be accommodated under the CW-1 program from 12,998 to 9,998 for fiscal year 2018 and would deduct an additional 4,998 slots in the program in fiscal year 2019 to get the program’s phase out by Dec. 31, 2019, ready.

Besides extending the program past the 2019 deadline, Sablan is also working on a draft bill that proposes a more permanent solution to the CNMI’s need for workers.

“I have been working since last year with a bipartisan group from the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate on draft legislation. The goal is to get more of our own people jobs in the Marianas economy with enough foreign workers to fill in the gap,” he said.

Without sharing any details about the extension, Sablan emphasized that the working group is close to getting the consensus needed to get the CW-1 program extension into law.

Last week, Sablan sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen requesting to set once again the CW-1 caps at the 13,000 level in order to avoid economic disruption in the Marianas as well as the loss of U.S. jobs.

Sablan suggested a CW-1 cap of 12,997 for fiscal year 2018 and 12,996 for fiscal year 2019, following previous fiscal years’ CW-1 slot reductions.

The CW-1 program, legally known as the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker Program, was originally set to expire last 2014. Sablan was able to secure an extension for the program through U.S. Public Law 113-235 in 2014.

Last November, USCIS set the CW-1 numerical cap at 9,998 for fiscal year 2018, a huge reduction compared to the previous fiscal year cap, which was 12,998.

Upon learning the news, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres went to Washington, D.C. to request for a reprieve and to negotiate an extension. Sablan requested Murkowski that Torres be included in the working group but the latter has reportedly yet to invite Torres.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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