Gov. Ralph DLG Torres continues to pursue a reprieve on the 3,000-slot reduction of the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program, according to a statement made yesterday by his administration.
In a statement provided by press secretary Kevin Bautista, Torres continues to pursue a CW-1 reprieve with ongoing discussions with several federal and local officers within the administration and “on the Hill.”
“These discussions remain a top priority for Governor Torres as we continue to address the ongoing labor issues that are not only limited to the CW cap, but also how we continue to develop our local workforce,” said the statement.
Reiterating the need to develop the local workforce, Bautista specified that the Torres administration has been seeing “positive developments” on improving the workforce development from the homefront.
“There have been positive developments made here locally on the workforce development front, as the CNMI Department of Labor, the CNMI Scholarship Office, our NAP Work Registration program and our other government agencies are closely collaborating and coordinating with small and large businesses to put people in jobs,” the statement said, recognizing that there was “a lot of work that still needs to be done”.
“…The administration remains committed to ensuring we follow through on our current workforce development initiatives, while continuing our advocacy for solutions to the CW program both within this fiscal year and for the long term,” concluded the statement.
Scrambling for breathing room, the CNMI has been recently struck with a 3,000-cap reduction by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services last Nov. 2017, effectively bringing down the much-needed CW-1 slot numerical cap to 9,998 for fiscal year 2018. According to USCIS, the sudden drop in slots was made in preparation for the expiry of the CW-1 program, which is as of writing slated for Dec. 31, 2019.
For fiscal years 2015 to 2017, the CW-1 cap has been reduced by only one, and has been consecutively capped during the duration of those fiscal years.
The CW-1 program was established as Public Law 110-229 was enacted, or the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008, or the CNRA. The CNRA established the federalization of the CNMI and took over its immigration in the process. Initially, the expiry of the CW-1 program was scheduled at Dec. 31, 2014, however it was extended through the discretionary authority of the U.S. Department of Labor Secretary to extend, which was later on removed through an act of U.S. Congress.
Upon learning of the reduction, Torres sped on to Washington, D.C. to negotiate a reprieve as well as discuss the extension of the CW-1 program. Alongside was the Northern Marianas Business Alliance Corp., a collection of representatives of local businesses that are for the CW-1 program to keep the uprising CNMI economy afloat.
NMBAC, led by chair Alex Sablan, accompanied Torres along with several other members of the organization to negotiate the terms of the CW-1 extension, which could only be achieved through an act of U.S. Congress.