Over 200 IPI workers will become illegal immigrants

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In four days, over 200 Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC contract workers will officially become illegal immigrants on U.S soil because their visas are set to expire by the end of this month.

According to an internal IPI source, IPI has over 200 contract workers on temporary work visas that will expire on Jan. 30. The source said IPI has not made any arrangements for repatriation and have not paid them severance and back wages that these workers could use to pay for their own flights back home.

“IPI has over 200 workers who will soon have illegal immigration status. They are fearful [that they will be] picked up. The company needs to pay them severance and send them home,” the source said.

The U.S District Court for the NMI is set to hear the matter this Thursday.

During a hearing at the U.S District Court for the NMI last Thursday, former IPI counsel Michael Dotts said that IPI has many workers whose visas are expiring on Jan. 30 and need to be repatriated, but IPI does not have the resources to do so.

“A great number of these workers will lose their status and need to be repatriated. One of the issues we have to work with the Department of Labor is if we have limited cash, how do we best address the situation? How do we prioritize between repatriation, wages, and getting the power back? I think that’s more of a conversation I should have with the attorneys of the U.S. Department of Labor,” he said.

U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona Mangloña said the repatriation of the workers is a concern and an issue on its own.

The court scheduled the next hearing between USDOL and IPI this Thursday to address the issue of repatriation, sanctions, and whether or not the court’s stop-work order should be lifted or extended.

“With the repatriation, I think that’s one of the important parts too. That’s the reason why I didn›t want to go to the following week. The repatriation of the workers with visas expiring Jan. 30 is a concern and an issue. I believe some of [them] are also separate plaintiffs in another pending civil matters,” Mangloña said.

So far, IPI has yet to report if they have satisfied the sanctions imposed by the court to lift the current stop-work order. That means paying the last five employee payrolls and restoring power and water to employee housing.

Numerous IPI employees report that power and water have not been restored and that IPI allows the use of generators for a couple of hours a day.

As for payroll, IPI employees told Saipan Tribune that some of their checks bounced.

Kimberly B. Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.

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