‘Labor should have been made to participate in USCIS lottery’


Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan) believes the CNMI could have balanced its labor and economic needs if the local Department of Labor had been given a chance to participate before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services made any decision in its lottery process.

USCIS last month received more applications than the CW-1 cap of 4,999 and they had used a lottery system to determine the petitions that would be approved.

Demapan said that having the local labor made part of USCIS’ process was one of the issues both CNMI and federal panels recommended for immediate action during the 902 talks a few years ago.

“So, I feel the CNMI Department of Labor should be given a hand to participate and offer a recommendation of maybe categorizing the slots before the lottery. We asked this during the 902 talks,” said Demapan, who was part of the CNMI panel as chairman of the House Federal and Foreign Affairs Committee of the 19th Legislature.

Demapan pointed out that the Guam Labor Department has a participatory hand in dealing with the territory’s worker visas.

“We were asking that the CNMI [DoL] be given the same thing. What we’re asking is not for CNMI [DoL] to be part of the decision-making, but the process that leads to the decision making,” he said.

Extending the CW-1 program beyond 2019 and raising the numerical limit of foreign workers allowed in the CNMI to 18,000 were some of the other recommendations made by the 902 panel.

USCIS has moved forward in processing some of the CW-1 petitions that were drawn in the lottery and Demapan said this would have an adverse impact on the local economy “because we need a lot more than 4,999 [foreign workers].

“The biggest issue here is the lottery does not give us the chance to balance our economic needs. The lottery just drew random positions and workers to fill those positions. We feel that because it was a lottery, there’s no participatory process for the CNMI to work with the federal government to say ‘okay, why don’t we do the most equitable proportionment of the 4,999,” he said.

“That would be the least burden to the economy. By doing the lottery, it was like we could have 999 barbers and 4,000 waiters and no other positions,” Demapan added.

Optimistic on SB 2325
All these problems are expected to disappear if S.B. 2325, introduced by U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee chair Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), would pass the House and is signed by President Trump and Demapan is optimistic that would happen.

“It is already in the [U.S.] House but it’s taking longer than expected. Obviously, it is going to happen sooner rather than later. We just have to keep crossing our fingers that it will happen.”

“But we need to be more active. We need to go on full court press to encourage the House to take action and pass this legislation. We cannot just make calls and say it is going to happen on a certain week and it doesn’t happen.”

He added that they remain in direct contact with Murkowski and her counterpart at the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah). “We’re waiting for the [U.S. House] members to make the decision on when to go to a vote. We believe the support is there on this bill.”

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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