NEWSMAKERS OF THE YEAR

1. USCIS terminates parole/EAD of some workers
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is ending 2018 on a grim note—the termination of the humanitarian parole of close to 2,000 workers that are either immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and stateless individuals, CNMI permanent residents and their IRs, the Freely Associate States residents’ IRs, and caregivers for local residents.

When Public Law 110-229 or the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 was enacted, some CNMI guest workers were granted humanitarian parole for various reasons, including caregivers.

USCIS issued humanitarian parole to foreign workers who were left without employment status. These workers either had minor children who were U.S. citizens or were given transitional conditional permits (umbrella permits).
Their documents are expiring today and will no longer be renewed. Those under the program have 180 days to either leave the CNMI or apply for other status. (Jon Perez)

2. Rota Mayor Atalig is indicted
A federal grand jury indicted Rota Mayor Efraim M. Atalig in federal court last September after he allegedly arranged a government-funded trip to Guam for himself and 12 other persons, including eight municipal employees, on a false claim that he was going to check for surplus at the Naval Base in Guam. Actually, he allegedly went to participate in a political rally last June 23 in Mangilao. The indictment charged Atalig with one count of wire fraud.

Atalig was not arrested as he was only summoned to appear in the U.S. District Court for the NMI for his initial appearance hearing.

The Office of the Attorney General also filed on the same day criminal charges in Superior Court against 57-year-old Atalig and seven others Rota municipal officials in connection with the Guam political rally.
The jury trial in the federal case will commence on March 12, 2019. (Ferdie De La Torre)

3. TanHoldings, TSL Foundation donate $1M for Yutu recovery
One of the biggest private employer in the CNMI, TanHoldings Corp., together with its charitable arm, the Tan Siu Lin Foundation, pledged to donate $1 million to recovery efforts in the CNMI.
TanHoldings’ $1-million pledge will go to the American Red Cross-NMI Chapter, Commonwealth Advocates for Recovery Efforts, and CNMI Mass Care.

4. Samaritan’s Purse comes to the rescue
North Carolina-based religious organization Samaritan’s Purse came to Saipan and Tinian for the first time in response to Super Typhoon Yutu. The organization brought with them over 80 tons of emergency materials for immediate relief. The organization was able to provide about 300 gensets for Tinian residents, bring medical professionals to Saipan and Tinian, and even transport Lambert the lion and Tasha the tiger to a wildlife sanctuary in Colorado—all aboard their own DC-8 cargo aircraft.

5. Mariana Resort closes
Mariana Resort & Spa, including the Mandi Asian Spa, go-kart facility, the community pool, and the Marianas Country Club golf course closed their doors on Sept. 30 after a long battle in negotiating their public land lease with the Department of Public Lands. The resort was managed and operated by the Kan Pacific Group, considered as one of the first investors in the CNMI with a record of 40 years of service.

According to Kan Pacific president Yoshiro Kitami, Kan Pacific’s public land lease was not granted an extension and that there was no other choice but to close down operations and vacate Marpi premises and facilities.
The Marpi facility is currently under the management of the government. (Bea Cabrera)

6. Delta Airlines pullout
Delta Air Lines, an Atlanta-based carrier, ended its service to Saipan and Palau last May 6, 2018. The airlines cited “unsustainable pressure” and lower demand for the Micronesian market as its main reason for the pullout. The airline further noted that they are strengthening their focus on the airline’s network to U.S. gateways and beyond. The airlines also discontinued its services between Narita, Japan, and Guam last January. (Erwin Encinares)

7. Salary increase for CNMI officials
A bill that would establish a new salary level for lawmakers is now in the Senate, where action is needed before the opening of the 21st Legislature or their annual compensation would go down to the original $8,000 40 years ago. House Bill 20-195, introduced by Rep. Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero (R-Saipan) again passed the House and is now awaiting action in the Senate.

H.B. 20-195, which would give legislators an annual salary of $32,000, needs to be signed by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres before the opening of the 21st Legislature on Jan. 14. (Jon Perez)
 
8. BEA: CNMI economy flies high
The CNMI economy grew by 25.1 percent in 2017 based on the gross domestic product estimates released by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. The report is based on revised estimates of GDP where the CNMI increased by 25.1 percent in 2017 after experiencing a 28.2 pct. jump in 2016, making the Commonwealth one of the fastest economies among U.S. jurisdictions second straight year. (Jon Perez)

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