Senators: Involve DOL in CW process


CNMI senators want more local involvement in the CW process, with members of the Senate Committee on Federal and Foreign Affairs pushing for more involvement by the CNMI Department of Labor secretary.

In a meeting last Thursday on Capital Hill, the committee, led by Sen. Jude Hofschneider (R-Tinian), said, “We wish that there is a portion there that gives the [Labor] secretary more involvement in the clearing and certification of specific positions in the CW program,” said Hofschneider.

Thursday’s meeting was prompted by the introduction of the CW program extension bill, called the Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act, by Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) and U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) last Jan. 19.

According to Sablan’s H.R. 4869, the bill provides that employers must first secure a certification that an employer could not find qualified and willing U.S.-eligible workers. Several CNMI senators believe this is where the CNMI Labor secretary may step in.

“We have a DOL here and they should be the one to vet the applications for the permit in terms of availability of jobs to prevent [ghost employees],” said Sen. Justo Quitugua (Ind- Saipan), referring to individuals who apply for CW-1 permits but are either employed different from the one stated in their CW-1 permits.

Even though Sablan’s legislation does not include such language, Hofschneider believes that the legislation is “monumental” as it provides guidance for the CNMI government.

“This is all about the survivability of our economy—call it [an] immigration [bill], call it whatever else you want, but this is legislation to stabilize our economy and make it sustainable moving forward. In the meantime, we have a responsibility here to ensure that U.S. workers are also accorded an opportunity and that each business would follow that mandate and the intent of the law that is before us,” said Hofschneider.

Sen. Francisco Cruz (R-Tinian) raised concerns regarding the lessening number of workers, as outlined in the bill. According to him, since the bill provides that there would be a reduction of CW 500 slots per fiscal year, he questioned whether it would be proper to keep inviting investors during the transition period.

“…It does not make sense for Tinian and Rota to have economic developments because we know for a fact that the CW slots would be all [consumed] by businesses on Saipan,” he said.

“There should be discussions on how to mitigate this issue to give Tinian and Rota a chance for economic development,” added Cruz.

Sen. Sixto K. Igisomar (R-Saipan) believes that “the fact that we have this variable in…[our] economic growth that is limited by foreign workers, to me is very troubling.”

He added that although he wishes that the CW extension passes, the CNMI government should continue to allow for strategic planning and work on anticipating growth for the future.

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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