‘Not enough time’


The time it takes to submit a petition for a foreign worker in the CNMI—from announcing the job vacancy to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approval—is too short and, as currently set up, does not give CNMI employers enough time to jump through all the hoops.

The Northern Marianas Business Association Corp. wants to stress that point, with NMBAC president Alex Sablan saying the most important issue at this point is to expedite the processing time for foreign worker permits, called CW-1 permits.

In response to Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan’s (Ind-MP) statement on Monday that the required prevailing wage survey should have been done earlier, Alex Sablan said that, even if the PWS had been completed as early as April 4, 2019, the time frame as it stands is still too tight.

“It still doesn’t explain the delay in the current numbers. What we need is to move forward and recognize that the system doesn’t allow sufficient adjudication time for wage determination, advertising, [Temporary Labor Certification], and [USCIS] permit processing and we need a reprieve from this issue or our economy collapses without a sufficient workforce,” he told Saipan Tribune in a statement last Tuesday.

In Kilili Sablan’s statement last Monday, he noted that the NMBAC previously recommended that employers wait for the completion of the prevailing wage survey before submitting for their CW petition requirements.

The PWS was completed in late June 2019.

Alex Sablan defended the organization’s recommendation, adding that it was “simply economics.”

“The NMBAC recommended to employers not to file for [U.S. Department of Labor] TLC because the prevailing wage presented was for Guam and U.S. national wages and our economy was and currently still is in a recession,” he said. “It’s simply economics—allowing for a more organic growth of wages in the CNMI and not imposing other jurisdictions’ wages on the CNMI’s depressed economy. As it stands, wages in many categories doubled and tripled and is causing families to pay wages to restore their homes at wage rates beyond their ability to pay.”

“We hope Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) are successful in intervening and providing the reprieve needed to keep our economy growing while balancing the required hiring of U.S. citizens,” he added.

In a four-page letter dated Aug. 26, 2019, the Chamber expressed a similar need for intervention.

Kilili Sablan has yet to confirm whether he received the Chamber letter, but Saipan Tribune learned yesterday that Chamber president Velma Palacios has already talked with the delegate about the letter.

The NMBAC is a coalition of different business groups in the CNMI, including the Saipan Chamber of Commerce and Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands.

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.
Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.