Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) fears the possible termination of the CNMI parole authority, which allows Chinese and Russian tourists to enter the CNMI.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday at his office at Susupe, Sablan said he loses sleep over thinking about the Trump administration possibly ending the CNMI parole authority for Chinese and Russian tourists.
“I worked hard to get the parole authority back in 2009,” said Sablan, adding that the program has “served the CNMI well.”
“The economy…is largely dependent on Chinese parole. Forty percent of our tourists are from China. The casino has Chin[ese] as their main patrons. The governor understands that keeping parole is the No. 1 issue of U.S. President Donald J. Trump since Day 1,” he added.
Sablan recounted seeing a draft executive order back in February 2017 terminating the parole authority. That executive order didn’t happen.
“As we’ve seen, if [former president Barack Obama] did it, Trump is undoing it,” Sablan said, adding that Trump has been undoing several Obama-era initiatives using his executive powers such as revoking temporary and protected status for Haitians, Salvadorians, ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and more.
“More so now, my worry is the Marianas parole [authority] for tourists could be next. I have met with the Customs and Border Protection, Homeland Security Investigations, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services,” said Sablan. “The field officers are telling Washington, D.C. that the parole is really hard to enforce,” adding that overstaying tourists; working tourists; on-the-job deaths; minimum wage violations; birth tourism, and more could possibly jeopardize the parole authority under the Trump administration.
“I wish that I could share more with you, but I am alarmed and I am very worried about this program ending in the Marianas. [The program’s end] would be a major harm to our economy,” he said, adding that he has “reason to be very alarmed.” He declined to specify those reasons.
People are often confused between parole authority—which allows tourists from China and Russia to enter the CNMI—and the visa waiver program—which allows the entry of tourists from Australia, Brunei, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Nauru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.
The CNMI parole authority is responsible for bringing almost half of the total tourist population in the CNMI. Korea and China, the top two tourist markets for the CNMI, comprise over 95 percent of total arrivals to the Marianas. Anything that will throttle the entry of Chinese tourists to the CNMI, could cripple the local economy.