Despite being islands, both the CNMI and Guam also have individuals with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status, according to a visiting law professor.
Rose Cuison Villazor, a professor at the University of California at Davis School of Law, said that she spoke with some lawyers on Saipan three years ago who informed her about some people who applied for DACA.
She does not know if these people are still in the CNMI, but Villazor said her understanding was that those DACA applications were filed.
The subject of DACA, President Donald Trump’s travel ban, and U.S. immigration law were Wednesday’s focus in the ongoing four-day Pacific Judicial biennial conference at the Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan’s Hibiscus Hall.
Created by the Obama administration in 2012, DACA, an immigration policy, allowed some individuals who entered the country as minors, and had either entered or remained in the country illegally, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to be eligible for a work permit.
Saying it is unconstitutional, the Trump administration rescinded DACA this month.
As of 2017, approximately 800 individuals were enrolled in the DACA program—colloquially referred to as Dreamers.
In an interview after her presentation on Wednesday, Villazor said that immigration law is one of the most significant areas of law right now.
“It affects millions of people in the United States. It is important to know about the travel ban and DACA,” said Villazor, who was set to talk about sanctuary cities at the PJC conference yesterday.
The professor said that most of the PJC participants—judges, justices, and lawyers—know the legal issues but it is always good to get a refresher and to know “where we are right now with the development of these important cases.”
She said that DACA and the guest worker issues here in the CNMI are part of a bigger immigration picture.
Villazor, who described the U.S. immigration system as broken, said: “We have a law that was passed in 1952 and has been amended many times.” What is needed, she said, is comprehensive immigration reform that will also address the status of long-term guest workers in the CNMI.
“When I talked about DACA, it was about the context of the revocation and how that impacted all people in the United States, to include five territories, including the CNMI,” she said.
Villazor said the revocation of DACA means that if affected individuals are not able to renew their status within the allocated time, they will become unauthorized.
Villazor grew up on Saipan and graduated at Mt. Carmel School. After college, she went back to Mt. Carmel to teach, then went to law school. Since becoming a law professor, she has come back to Saipan twice to teach the CNMI Judiciary’s pre-law program.
“It is always great to be able to come back and see families and friends and contribute to the legal discussions here in the CNMI,” Villazor said.
It was the first time for Villazor to serve as a speaker at the PJC conference. “I am really grateful for the opportunity to be here. I am honored to participate in this conference,” she said.