The Senate on Friday concurred with the House of Representatives to support a bill in the U.S. Congress to extend the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program for an additional 10 years.
Both legislative chambers have unanimously approved Rep. Angel Demapan’s (R-Saipan) House Joint Resolution 20-08, with the Senate passing it last Friday.
The resolution shows the CNMI Legislature’s support for U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) S. 2325, which extends the transitional period for the CW program and some of its provisions.
Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) has also introduced a measure, H.R. 4869, that is similar to Murkowski’s bill.
Sen. Justo Quitugua (Ind-Saipan) said that S. 2325, if enacted, would provide “tremendous relief” to the large number of CW slots that were slashed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for fiscal year 2018.
“The passage of S.2325 will restore the needed labor force absent from available U.S. local [workers] and provide the CNMI with the much needed time to train available U.S. local residents to sustain our economic development in the years to come,” said Quitugua. He believes, along with several other CNMI senators, that the local CNMI Department of Labor should be more involved with the CW registration process.
“[The CNMI Department of Labor should] ensure that local labor laws are complied with and to not repeat the ‘ghost’ CW permits incident where CW permits were issued without readily available bodies to work,” he said, adding that the CNMI in turn must also do its due diligence to uphold its end of the bargain.
“In the meantime, all stakeholders must work together for a sustainable economy so we can ensure continued prosperity to the people of the CNMI.”
Not extending the CW program could ultimately affect even the public sector through a major economic plunge, said Sen. Teresita Santos (R-Rota).
“…Any potential economic impact could also translate to our CNMI government’s inability to provide adequate basic public services such as medical care, public safety, and reliable utilities,” she said, adding that even the mere possibility of losing the CW program is already affecting potential projects in the CNMI.
Like Quitugua, she also said that the CNMI must maintain its efforts to train local residents as well as reduce reliance on foreign labor.