Sen. Paul A. Manglona (Ind-Rota) opposes the idea of the CNMI hiring a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. to push for the recommendations in the 902 report, saying the CNMI’s elected leaders should be enough to present the Commonwealth’s concerns to President Donald Trump and other administration officials.
To bolster this position, Manglona introduced Senate Joint Resolution 20-1 on Wednesday to ask Trump to honor the 902 report that was transmitted to congressional leaders last month.
Manglona said the right persons to lobby for the Commonwealth are Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP), Senate President Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan), House Speaker Rafael S. Demapan (R-Saipan), members of the CNMI Legislature, and leaders of the CNMI business community.
“I hope our government and its leaders have already learned a lesson in hiring lobbyists. The best lobbyists are our leaders and our people. The issues in the 902 report—CW1, local workforce training, visa waiver, and other immigration issues—the best way to push for our concerns is for our leaders to form a united front and lobby for the changes suggested in the report.”
Manglona said that hiring lobbyists could become a problem for the CNMI.
“We don’t need lobbyists. I don’t believe in hiring lobbyists since we knew what happened before. They create situations so we could continue hiring them. We also know Trump doesn’t like lobbyists. If he heard about that [the CNMI hiring a lobbyist], it might become a problem.”
The CW1 program or the CNMI-Only Transitional Nonimmigrant Worker Visa allows foreign guest workers to be employed on a temporary basis. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services controls the program; it has a numerical cap that would be zeroed out on Dec. 31, 2019.
Torres indicated last month that his administration is thinking of hiring a lobbyist that would help push for the CNMI’s issues and earn support from Congress and leaders of the Trump administration.
His other option is to open a satellite office in Washington, D.C. as a way of having the CNMI heard in the U.S. Capitol. He said that office would be different from the CNMI Delegate’s Office, a post that is currently held by Sablan. The satellite office would have the chance to inform and show key officials of the federal government that the CNMI’s concerns have a big impact on its economy.
Manglona said the CNMI government spent around $2 million for a lobbyist during the garment industry crisis and before the federal government took control of CNMI immigration and labor.
“I say no to lobbyists. We should learn our lesson. Our local leaders are the best lobbyists, especially the governor since he stood behind and supported President Trump in the last election. He should be communicating with Trump and his administration. My resolution is to ask President Trump to accept the report that was presented to former President [Barack] Obama.”
He said the task now of CNMI leaders is to send a message to congressional leaders and Trump in order for them to act on the recommendations that were presented in the 902 report.
“Our leaders’ message should be ‘please listen to our concerns in the 902 report. Please accept it since a lot of time, effort, and research was done with it.’”
Manglona said that Torres could work on arranging a meeting with Trump and other congressional leaders to talk about the CNMI’s issues.
“I believe [Trump] would now have the time to listen to us…listen to territories’ concerns, especially the CNMI. Now is the time to get our leaders—with 902 members and business community—to figure out a way on how to send our message and how to communicate with Trump. The governor supported Trump, so he is the best person to lead the lobbying. I believe Trump would welcome our governor and our leaders to meet with him.”
He said that Trump needs to know the CNMI’s situation since it has a unique relationship with the U.S. government, unlike the four other territories.
“Our issues are not that easy for the President to understand because his top priority is immigration and many of the things that we are asking are contrary to what he believes. [Trump] needs to understand that we are in a remote place. Our economy, the conditions, and our surroundings are different from the way it is in the U.S.”
“We have a unique relationship and Trump has to completely understand our situation out here. He needs to…have his Cabinet also understand it,” said Manglona.