The Torres administration’s game plan for an upcoming U.S. Senate hearing on a bill that would extend the CNMI’s foreign labor program by 10 years is to highlight the progress and efforts of the local government in hiring U.S. eligible workers.
In a statement, press secretary Kevin Bautista told Saipan Tribune that Gov. Ralph DLG Torres would attend the U.S. Senate’s public hearing on U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) S. 2325, the bill she introduced to extend the transition period of the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program.
According to Bautista, Torres would be accompanied by Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente, chief of staff Matt Deleon Guerrero, Senate President Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan), Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan), and members of the Northern Marianas Business Alliance Corp., who previously went with Torres to lobby for the program.
Bautista said the Torres administration would be highlighting the efforts the local government has been exerting to develop its workforce, as well as the progress attained by those efforts.
“The governor will speak about the progress that has been made within our economy and on developing our workforce, but there will be a discussion on the work that still needs to be done,” he said, adding that Torres and members of the NMBAC and the community have been preparing for the hearing.
Bautista said the governor and those involved are working to create a “comprehensive testimony” that includes “tangible employment and economic data with references to new and ongoing initiatives that are undertaken by the Commonwealth to develop its U.S. workforce.”
“[Torres] will speak about the Commonwealth’s commitment to putting more of our people in jobs, protecting legacy workers who have contributed their lives to our island, and ensure the progress of our economy and our community,” said Bautista.
S. 2325, which was introduced to the Senate last Jan. 19, 2018, by Murkowski, was a product of the working group tasked with coming up with transition period extension parameters for the development of the CNMI economy.
S. 2325 was introduced in the U.S. Senate on the same day that Delegate Gregorio Killili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) introduced H.R. 4869 in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Sablan was a member of the working group, which was led by Murkowski, and included several high profile U.S. legislators along with Torres.
In S. 2325 and in H.R. 4869, a 10-year extension is being proposed while bumping up the CW annual cap for fiscal year 2019 to 13,000 instead of the 4,999 set by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in November 2017.
While the cap limit is increased, 500 slots will be reduced annually starting fiscal year 2020. The measure also proposes several changes in securing a CW permit, including the creation of a CW-3 permit for employees who have been working in the CNMI since fiscal year 2014, provided that the applicant exits the CNMI for 30 days during the six-month renewal period. CW-3 permits will be renewable every three years.