Gov. Ralph DLG Torres assured last Thursday morning that his office is continuing his work on the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program issues in the U.S. mainland.
With a view toward obtaining a possible reprieve on the looming impending exodus of foreign workers from the CNMI on Sept. 30, 2019, the governor assured that his office on Washington, D.C. is continuing its work with the White House on the issue.
“We are sensitive about it, but I know they will be meeting…again to press on the issue [about the] Sept. 30, 2019 [deadline]. I do know that there are some [private sector members] who did not submit their [CW-1] applications on time. There are some issues that we need to address and we are trying to address that,” he said in a brief update on the matter.
The Saipan Chamber of Commerce recently told Saipan Tribune that they are hoping for a reprieve or deferred action that would allow foreign workers to stay and continue working in the CNMI once fiscal year 2020 starts on Oct. 1, 2019.
They also sent a letter to Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) last Aug. 26 requesting for immediate action, as well as some recommendations for amending U.S. Public Law 115-218, the law that effectively extended the CW program for 10 years.
CNMI Department of Labor Vicky Benavente told Saipan Tribune in a previous interview that she largely concurred with the contents of the letter.
Separately, in a letter dated Aug. 17, 2019, an informal group of over 200 CW workers met with the governor to ask for a reprieve from the Sept. 30, 2019, deadline, when majority of CW workers are believed to exit the CNMI.
The letter incorporated a request for reprieve and even deferred action for those who are struggling with the U.S. Department of Labor side of the CW petition renewal. The letter was also reportedly sent to the Washington delegate, but Sablan did not confirm receipt with Saipan Tribune.
The new requirements of the U.S. Department of Labor are reportedly the cause in the current delays in CW-1 renewal applications. However, according to a statement from the delegate’s office, it noted that the sheer number of applicants, which were submitted during the processing period for H-1B visas, is causing the bottleneck.
His office noted that during his meeting with USDOL and U.S Department of Homeland Security, they confirmed the average processing time of 41 days for a temporary labor certification—including the 21 days needed for job vacancy announcement postings.