Gov. Ralph DLG Torres discussed with key decision-makers in Washington, D.C. several issues pertaining to the U.S. federal government and CNMI local government relationship last week.
According to an official update on Torres’ almost month-long stay at the nation’s capital, press secretary Kevin Bautista told Saipan Tribune that Torres has been discussing military buildup activities on Tinian and Pagan as well as CW-1 visa concerns.
Bautista specified that Torres had a “constructive meeting” with Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations, and Environment Lucian Niemeyer, which included details pertaining to the “continued discussions of the proposed military buildup activities in the Marianas, specifically the CNMI Joint Military Training Exercises, or CJMT, on Tinian and Pagan.”
Saipan Tribune attempted but failed to obtain information on CJMT discussions.
Bautista added that Torres later met with senior officials of the Department of Homeland Security, particularly officials at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, with the purpose of continuing discussions on the CW program’s need for extension beyond 2019.
“The governor is focusing on having the policy attention focused on a long-term solution to the workforce needs of our growing economy,” said Bautista. “This includes stepping up our efforts in recruiting and training our local workforce, making sure our hospital will continue to have the nurses it needs, and [making sure] our businesses will continue to have the workers they need.”
The administration cited the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s public debt outlook report on the five U.S. territories released last May 2017.
“… Guest workers are a vital part of our economy for both large and small businesses and the removal of all guest workers on CW-1 permits will have a drastically negative effect on our economy and our livelihood as a community,” Bautista said.
GAO was referring to the end of the CW-1 program, officially known as the CNMI Transitional Worker program, which has been in place since 2009. The program’s first deadline was set in 2014, but was extended to this coming 2019. As of publication, U.S. Congress has yet to allow extensions for the CW-1 program, however Torres and Delegate Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (Ind-MP) both noted that an extension proposal is in the works.
Bautista added that Torres is scheduled to meet with the Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment this week.