Gov. Ralph DLG Torres has come out with a statement of support for better immigration status for the CNMI’s long-term workers but also criticized Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) for alleged inaction on the matter in the U.S. Congress.
In a letter to Sablan dated Aug. 9, 2018, Torres sharply criticized Sablan for allegedly failing to act on previous bills that would have provided better status to foreign workers.
“As our current delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, it is your responsibility to do what is right for our Commonwealth and the people who call these islands home,” wrote Torres in response to Sablan’s request for a statement of support for his H.R. 6578.
Sablan had solicited the support of the governor for his bill, which proposes to provide permanent status to workers who have held CW-1 visas since 2015 and provides them with the option to become U.S. permanent residents after five years.
Torres pointed out in his letter to Sablan that dating back to 2011, a month prior to Sablan’s introduction of H.R. 1466 in the 112th U.S. Congress, Torres and his colleagues in the 17th NMI Legislature published the “only official CNMI document” expressing full support for granting improved status to long-term guest workers. He noted that they held 10 public hearings, did research, and heard community concerns to produce a 365-page report outlining the Legislature’s official recommendation to Congress.
Torres pointed out that in 2016, he led the CNMI delegation in the Section 902 consultations with the federal government, which produced the “first-ever report to the U.S. Congress” that expressed support for permanent status for long-term guest workers.
“It is through these constructive conversations with our federal counterparts that a legislative framework was established for workforce policy discussions between the CNMI and the US,” Torres wrote. “In the report, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security agreed with our recommendation that [U.S.] Congress should seriously consider options for a more permanent [status] for workers and their families.”
Despite all the support, Torres wrote, he sharply criticized the delegate for still failing to act on the widely supported legislation.
“This report was provided to you [Sablan] with the support of the Obama administration and the federal consultation team. Yet, action on passage of this legislation did not occur,” Torres wrote.
“I have been consistent in my belief that improved status is good for the CNMI, both economically and socially, in order to recognize the contributions long-term guest workers have and continue to make in our islands and in effort to prevent the separation of families.”
Sablan, in an Aug. 1, 2018, letter, urged Torres to support his bill, and in a statement from his newsletter dated Aug. 3, 2018, hoped that Torres would “support my new legislation and all our legacy workers and investors.”
“This has been a paramount priority of mine personally and of this administration and with every opportunity I have been given, I have provided my support. However, we still have no legislation that effectively advocates for people who have helped build our Commonwealth, for people who have contributed to this progress, and for people who call these islands home,” wrote Torres in his Aug. 9, 2018 letter, adding that long-term guest workers have been a “part of our community for decades.”
“It was not until this year that we passed meaningful federal legislation in a Republican Congress and a Republican administration that ensures there is a full acknowledgement and protection of our long-term guest workers and their families and additional time for the construction and progress of our islands to continue,” Torres said. “After 10 years of your term in Congress, we passed meaningful federal immigration legislation in 2018.”