Gov. Ralph DLG Torres had a busy schedule of meetings since arriving in Washington, D.C. to attend the National Governors Association winter meeting, which ends Tuesday. He has already met with several officials from the White House, including with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.
Torres met with Pence at the vice president’s residence at lunchtime but he first sat down with Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and her husband, Jeff Cook, on Sunday morning to discuss their joint efforts of lobbying the federal government to putt the Philippines back on the H-2B work visa program.
The Department of Homeland Security has removed the eligibility of citizens from the Philippines to avail of the H-2B visa after reviews and other studies showed that workers from that country have a 40-percent overstay rate and 60 percent were trafficked to the U.S.
Torres has already met with acting Interior secretary David Berhardt, and Insular and International Affairs assistant secretary Douglas W. Domenech.
Torres will continue with his meetings with federal officials to further discuss the H-2B visa issue and the CNMI parole program that was also discontinued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services last December.
Torres will meet with other officials from the White House, DHS, Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of the Insular Affairs, and the U.S. Department of Defense.
He is also set to attend several committee hearings in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in connection with the CNMI’s labor and immigration issues.
Details of the meeting were not yet available at press time, with the administration set to release statements and other updates within the week or after Torres’ testimony in Congress.
Torres, last weekend, joined governors of the 50 states and the four other territories for the NGA’s 111th winter meeting.
Leaders from the business and non-profit sector, and global governments joined the NGA’s plenary sessions where topics that were discussed were on governance and civic innovation, and roundtable discussions on child welfare, resiliency against disaster, education reform, and entrepreneurship.
Torres has also requested the federal government to convene the Section 902 Talks in connection with the CNMI’s immigration issues and its economic viability.
Torres and the four other U.S. territory governors are scheduled for the 2019 Senior Plenary Session of the Interagency Group on Insular Areas at the White House, and he will also meet with CNMI Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) in his office in D.C.
On Tuesday, Feb. 26, Torres and the other governors of the territories, at the invitation of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), will testify before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing.
On Feb. 27, Torres is scheduled to testify before the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee on an invitation by Sablan in connection with the hearing in connection with the CNMI Delegate’s H.R. 560—the Northern Mariana Islands Residents Relief Act—and the impact of the Philippines’ H-2B worker visa eligibility. He would end the day with a meeting with DoD officials.