S. 2739 Passes House!


April 29, 2008

House Clears Final Hurdle for CNMI Immigration Bill

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives today took the final legislative step needed by the Congress to approve legislation to extend U.S. immigration laws to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and to authorize a CNMI non-voting Delegate to the House of Representatives. The legislation, which passed by a vote of 291-117, will now be sent to the White House to be signed into law.

“For too long, abuses took place in the CNMI, and for too long, remedial legislation was held hostage in this body. Let this legislation bring forth a new dawn, a start of a new era, and with a Delegate to this body, let the voices of the people of the CNMI be heard,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), a co-sponsor of the bill.

The Northern Mariana Islands Immigration, Security and Labor Act (ISLA) and the Northern Mariana Islands Delegate Act (H.R. 3079), which would extend U.S. immigration laws to the CNMI and establish a federally administered guest worker program on the island, was unanimously approved by the House on December 11, 2007. H.R. 3079 was later incorporated into a larger package of bills, the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (S. 2739), sponsored by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM); the legislation was approved by the U.S. Senate on April 10, 2008.

Delegate Donna M. Christensen (D-VI), Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs and chief sponsor of H.R. 3079, praised the passage of the legislation and said, “The Congress’ approval of ISLA will ensure that employers have the ability to fill jobs, continue vocational training to empower CNMI residents with skills needed to succeed in their economy, foster partnerships with neighboring Guam to diversify the region’s economy, maintain adequate protections for the non-resident guest worker community, and strategically secure the Marianas archipelago.”

“Extending federal immigration law to the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas closes the guest worker loophole under which so many were held in modern slavery. The Constitution’s guarantee of freedom must apply everywhere in the United States, no matter how remote,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr., (D-MI), a co-sponsor of H.R. 3079.

“The people of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands will have a greater voice in Congress with the authorization for the election and seating of a Delegate to represent them in the House of Representatives. I look forward to the day that the Delegate from the CNMI is sworn in to the House of Representatives. This is long overdue, and a very important component of this omnibus, consensus bill. I thank Chairwoman Donna Christensen and Chairman Nick Rahall for their leadership in advancing this comprehensive legislation and ensuring the Delegate bill was made part of the overall effort,” said Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-GU).

The Bush Administration has testified before both the House and Senate in support of the legislation. Chairwoman Christensen, expressing a strong concern that all people on the CNMI have an opportunity to voice their opinions on H.R. 3079, held the first Congressional hearing on the islands in August 2007.


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