NMI awaits passage of CW bill

The CNMI anxiously awaits the passage of the new CW bill.

The U.S. House of Representatives was scheduled to discuss the new measure after it hit a snag a week ago. The lower chamber discussed the CW bill early this morning.

The bill was introduced by U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), who also chairs the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources. Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (D-MP) co-sponsors the bill.

According to a statement from Saipan Chamber of Commerce president Velma Palacios and House Speaker Rafael Demapan (R-Saipan), they, along with the Chamber and the rest of the islands, anxiously wait for the passage of H.R. 5956, or the NMI U.S. Workforce Act of 2018.

“We continue to remain hopeful for its passage in the House, then the Senate with the assistance of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK),” Palacios said. Murkowski previously introduced in the U.S. Senate S. 2325, a bill that sought to reset the CW cap for fiscal year 2019 to 13,000; provide additional validity to long-time CW workers; and extend the CNMI transitional period, along with programs under it such as the CW program and the E-2C investor program, to fiscal year 2029.

“…I understand this bill requires bicameral [and bipartisan] support, so any help would be [valuable] in making sure we have a product,” said Demapan, recognizing that the bill calls for a two-thirds vote in the U.S. Congress since it would be voted under suspension of the rules. According to a previous statement from Sablan, bills voted under suspension of the rules are usually not controversial and are done through a voice vote rather than a roll call vote.

“…The bill is intended to move, and that is a positive step toward [having] a CW program in place for the Commonwealth,” added Demapan.

Senate President Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan) issued a similar statement over the weekend, expressing his appreciation for the movement of the bill.

S. 2325 sailed through U.S. Senate but hit a wall in the U.S. House after it was ruled that the bill was unconstitutional since the U.S. Senate amended the bill to include an anti-fraud fee, which was ruled a revenue.

According to the U.S. Constitution, only the U.S. House may introduce legislation that generates revenue.

“Our economy requires a workforce to sustain it and we need the CW-1 program. We have businesses already affected with the rejections of the CW-1 visa applications submitted. Some businesses have made and continue to make tough decisions in continuing their operations,” said Velma Palacios.

The CW-1 program, which has a cap that is determined every fiscal year by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, was set at 4,999 for fiscal year 2019. USCIS claims the cut is in line with the administration’s intention to sunset the program, which is slated for Dec. 31, 2019 according to federal law. USCIS set the cap for fiscal year 2017 at 12,998 and 9,998 for fiscal year 2018.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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