Torres invites Murkowski to CNMI

‘I believe it will move forward’

Lisa Murkowski

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres has invited members of U.S. Congress to visit the CNMI to observe the challenges and progress made since the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program was created in 2010.

Torres said yesterday that he invited U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which she chairs, to visit the NMI so she could personally observe the challenges and progress that has been made.

He said a visit by Murkowski’s committee can “look into how to better our system here when decisions are made in Washington, D.C.”

It was Murkowski who introduced in the U.S. Senate S. 2325, a bill that proposes to extend the CNMI transitional period to fiscal year 2029, effectively extending essential programs such as the CW program and the E-2C investor program with it.

Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) introduced at the same time H.R. 4869 in the U.S. House of Representatives. H.R. 4869 is an exact copy of S. 2325.

Murkowski also led the bipartisan, bicameral working group tasked with studying the parameters of the extension.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Committee held a legislative hearing on S. 2325 last Feb. 6, 2018, with Torres, Sablan, several members of the CNMI Legislature, and business leaders attending.

When asked for an update on the legislation, which is currently still under review by Murkowski’s working group, Torres remains confident that Congress would scrutinize the legislation closely.

“I know that the…working group would continually look into testimonies,” said Torres. “I personally believe that it would continue to move forward. I have every faith that the process is moving along.”

With the upcoming April 2018 CW renewal season for fiscal year 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has set the CW-1 cap at 4,999, a significant decrease in anticipation of the current law that sets a deadline of Dec. 31, 2019, on the expiration of the CW program.

Torres said that, while he did not send a letter to USCIS, he said he explained the importance of the legislation back in December 2017.

“…Whether [USCIS is] going to implement [the CW cuts], it would be [implemented] on Oct. 1, 2018. I am hopeful that things will change by then,” he said.

In a statement from the Torres administration, it said that the governor has maintained constant discussions with the both U.S. House and U.S. Senate even after the hearing on S. 2325.

Sablan has already sent separate letters to USCIS director Lee Francis Cissna urging them to review employers who applied for CW permits in large volumes and to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen urging them to reevaluate the 4,999 CW cap for fiscal year 2019.

Sablan sent a second letter to Nielsen that took note of the progress made and again urging the agency to reevaluate the pending CW cap cuts.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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