Labor hopes to aid USCIS in processing


CNMI Labor Secretary Vicky I. Benavente gives members of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce key points in the NMI Workforce Act of 2018 in yesterday’s meeting at the Pacific Islands Club-Saipan’s Charley’s Cabaret. (Jon Perez)

CNMI Department of Labor Secretary Vicky I. Benavente said they are hoping to help U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the processing of CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program visa applications.

“We’re hoping to be at the table during the processing. Seeing to it the legitimate businesses. Seeing if they [business] had actually made an effort to interview qualified U.S. citizens. Or, if they hired a contract worker, what would be their plan to train qualified U.S. citizens.

Benavente was one of the guest speakers in yesterday’s Saipan Chamber of Commerce general membership meeting held at the Charley’s Cabaret of the Pacific Islands Club Saipan.

She said that they have been in contact with USCIS officials since last November to ensure what would be the process that would be in place once the then H.R. 5956 becomes law.

The NMI Workforce Act unanimously passed both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, and was signed by President Donald J. Trump last week.

“We’ve been discussing with them—all the documentation process and RFPs, all are put on the table already. Locally we will not require these particular documents because every quarter, businesses come to our office with thick files, and we don’t want that. We just wanted to see workforce history and workforce development file,” said Benavente.

Benavente added that they expect a lot of changes on the guidelines that would be set under the new law. “As soon as USCIS gives us the green light to announce it, we’re going to inform the public. Right now, I’m only allowed to announce what CNMI local Labor would allow or not allow and accept or not accept.”

“The final regulations will hopefully be done in the next three to four weeks. We’ve been in communication with USCIS. They are very good in hearing our concerns and challenges.”

She said that she understands the challenges every business or employer has to face when it comes to work force issue. “I just get so emotional when I see our obstacles, especially the business community that drives our economy.”

“It is not easy, I will tell you again and again that this is a challenge. I’ve worked at PIC and Hyatt for 12 years. We understand that we need to put the best people on the job.

Whether they are qualified U.S. citizens or contract workers that is up to the business,” added Benavente.

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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