NOTING MANY INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS IN THE CNMI
Noting the many infrastructure projects that are in the pipeline in the CNMI, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres believes U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services should have a special division just to address the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker (CW-1) permits in the Commonwealth.
In response to a question about the CW-1 program during a radio press briefing last Friday, Torres said that USCIS can expedite the CW-1 process with the creation of the special division as this would also drastically drop the percentage of contract workers being denied in terms of the length of that process.
“We continue to advocate the need of contract workers and more so our construction workers,” he said.
The governor noted that many studies done by different programs and organizations have shown that even if the CNMI were to employ all eligible U.S. citizens here, the Commonwealth would still not have enough workers.
The governor said this lack of workforce has hampered the Commonwealth’s recovery from the devastations of super typhoons. He said CW workers are needed to build the infrastructure and the homes under the Federal Emergency Management Agency program.
Torres said the federal government’s approach is making sure that U.S. workers who are eligible are given opportunity, so the CNMI has worked on that. He said the CNMI continues to work on building the Northern Marianas Technical Institute and other academies to prepare residents for construction job opportunities.
Regardless, Torres said he continues to advocate that the CNMI does not have enough workers here to do the many infrastructure projects, which also involves rebuilding the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.’s power plant, hotels, businesses, pipelines, and so on.
It is his hope, Torres said, that the CNMI will not only have a good number of construction workers but also have an expedited process for CW-1 permits.
In his remarks last Feb. 1 before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Torres, through Finance Secretary David DLG. Atalig, pushed for permanent allotment of 3,000 CW-1 permits to support construction activities in the CNMI. Torres wants the 3,000 permits to be separate from any presidentially-declared disasters in the CNMI.
At the annual Interagency Group on Insular Areas meeting in Washington D.C. last Feb. 1, Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) also called the attention of the Biden administration about the CNMI’s need for sufficient labor to put the hundreds of millions of federal dollars to work building water and sewer systems, upgrading schools and medical facilities, hardening power production and delivery, and improving transportation.