A delegation made up of congressional staffers met with CNMI leaders in a series of meetings throughout yesterday.
Saipan Tribune counted at least six members of the delegation and learned that they met with acting governor Arnold Palacios, members of the 21st CNMI Legislature, and representatives of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce until around 1pm.
In an interview with Sen. Sixto Igisomar (R-Saipan), he noted that the general message he conveyed to the delegation was that the CNMI need its own unique legislation because of its distinctive situation compared to other states.
“…We are not similar to the U.S. [mainland] where we can simply cross state borders and they are fine. Here, we are so isolated, so I asked that, in whatever policies they make, to please consider and understand our situation,” he said, adding that regular U.S. legislation will not have the same intended effect it would have for a state.
“We are geographically different from the U.S. and that was my story to them, to understand our challenges,” he said, citing the higher than normal poverty level and unique uninsured rates in the CNMI.
Rep. Tina Sablan (Ind-Saipan) noted that the meeting was more of a listening session according to one of the delegation members.
“They said…they were here really to listen and to get a sense of what were the major issues that were on the mind of the members of the Legislature. A lot of what they heard was about workforce issues, disaster recovery, and…immigration,” she said in an interview.
Sablan spoke to the delegation about a Government Accountability Office publication reporting on the federal government’s and CNMI government’s handling of disaster money in the Marianas.
According to the delegation, that report would be available sometime in the spring of 2020 or earlier.
Sablan noted she also touched on immigration reform in the CNMI.
“There was discussion on a bill which was recently signed into law…that afforded CNMI residency for a certain group of people with humanitarian parole status,” she said, referring to Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. SAblan’s (Ind-MP) H.R. 559, which granted 1,038 categorical parolees and employment authorization document holders a legal CNMI-only permanent resident status.
“I asked for a certain type of reform that will give residency to a larger group of people—contract worker people that were not included in that bill,” Sablan added.
“There was recognition in the U.S. Congress that we need to move forward with national immigration reform and, when that happens, the CNMI will be included in that legislation,” she added.
The delegation is set to leave the CNMI on Sunday. The remainder of their schedule in the CNMI is still unknown.