Gov. Ralph DLG Torres has sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen regarding the issue brought by CNMI foreign workers that are either under humanitarian parole status or the employment authorization document. His letter is in connection with the meeting that took place on Sept. 23 with foreign workers at the Marianas Business Plaza.
Torres wrote Nielsen to bring to Homeland’s attention the issue as it has an impact in the CNMI. “Following the federalization of the CNMI’s immigration system in 2008, many foreign citizens with U.S. citizen children were granted Humanitarian Parole to maintain legal status and prevent their separation under the federal immigration regime. Under the parole status, many have assumed jobs through their subsequent applications for [EADs].”
Foreign workers from Bangladesh, China, the Philippines, Japan, and Korea are concerned on their daily lives since they have to stop working while their documents are being processed. Some of the foreign workers were either had minor children who were U.S. citizens or were given transitional conditional permits (umbrella permits).
Torres mentioned that to Nielsen in the letter. “In recent years, there has been concerns over the timing of processing periods for both the humanitarian parole and the EAD, which has caused disruptions in the employment of these individuals. As you are aware, the humanitarian parole permits expire on Dec. 31, 2018 along with granted EADs.”
“However, parolees can only apply for EADs following the approval of their humanitarian parole renewal request. This period of processing between the expiration of the humanitarian parole and the approval of the EAD leaves the nearly 2,000 parolees unable to legally continue employment in the CNMI.”
He said the issue on continued employment also poses a problem to the CNMI economy. “As 2,000 individuals represent 10 approximately 10 percent of our workforce, this gap in work authorization poses a significant challenge for employers, the economy, and for the families affected.”
“To remedy this issue, I ask for your assistance and consideration to provide for an extension of the “240-day rule” under 8 CFR 274a. 12(b)(20), so that they may be authorized to continue their employment under the previous EAD pending the adjudication and approval of their renewed EAD.”
Torres added that he is hopeful Nielsen and her department would consider the CNMI’s unique nature. “I understand and respect [DHS’s] responsibilities on this issue, and I appreciate your understanding of the unique nature of the CNMI’s circumstances as we continue to transition into the national immigration system.”
“Within the short period in which the CNMI has been placed in the transitionary period, we have made tremendous progress toward the mandates of [U.S.] Congress, however, many issues, such as this, still require additional consideration in order to prevent disruption to the economy and the well-being of our people.”