Federalization in Ten Weeks

September 17, 2009

Benavente Calls for Delay
Another legislator is pleading to stall the November 28, 2009 implementation of PL 110-229. Diego Benevante, chair of the House Committee on U.S. and Foreign Relations asked fellow lawmakers to support another year delay. The Marianas Variety reported:
Benavente, a former lt. governor, said there is so much uncertainty that will be brought about should the federalization law be implemented as scheduled this Nov. 28.

First, he said the regulations proposed so far do not protect the interest of the commonwealth.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is the leading federal agency tasked to implement the law.

But there are several other federal agencies involved as well and Benavente said it appears that they, too, are not ready.

“There are significant roles to be fulfilled by the Departments of State, the Interior, Labor and [Justice],” said Benavente in his letter to his fellow lawmakers.

Thus far, DHS has already published regulations for the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program and the CNMI-Only Nonimmigrant Treaty Investor or E-2 investor visa which is specifically designed for foreign investors in the commonwealth.

Regulations for guest workers are still being drafted.
For certain there will be no owner's manuel with the implementation of federalization. The transition period should allow for tweaking of policies and regulations, yet Benevante complained, "The absence of regulations creates great uncertainty. Without regulations, our businesses, workers and families cannot prepare for the coming major changes. Uncertainty is bad for business. It is bad for public morale. Uncertainty, however, is not the only negative effect of the failure to publish regulations."

Another delay would require an act of Congress and with start of federalization scheduled just 71 days from today, it is very unlike that there will be a delay.

Action Needed
A letter to the Editor by attorney Jane Mack makes excellent points. From her letter:
Rep. Diego Benevente complains about the uncertainty caused by the change to U.S. immigration. There is a simple solution to help address this concern. The CNMI Legislature can pass a law that grants the maximum status of two years to aliens who are here, status that could begin on Nov. 27, 2009, and apply to all aliens in the CNMI (except recent arrivals). This would protect our current labor force without violating the CNRA cap on new admissions; it would provide stability and a means for planning for businesses and people; it would lessen anxiety. It might even go a long way toward redressing some of the grievances our alien workers have against us.

Would the CNMI Legislature do something this simple? Something within their means? Or will they only be concerned about their image in the newspapers? Endless discussions about how the CNMI has not abused anyone; how it is a usurpation of our right to self-government to take over immigration; how our current administration cares.

Never mind the people who have lived here for many years and who may now be out of status due to circumstances or may need time and money to transition to a U.S. status.

Never mind that we agreed in our Covenant to let the U.S. extend its immigration here whenever it decided to do so.

Never mind that we still have some control and the means to take precautions against the harms foreseen.

Better to rant about the predictions of a coming storm than put up typhoon shutters and lay in stores of water and candles. Better to complain about the U.S. not doing what it needs to do. Better to seek delay of what is "beneficial" to the CNMI!
There's nothing to add. She is exactly right.

Ready for Federalization
Contrary to what those who call for a delay are saying, David G. Gulick, the security district director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service said the federal government will be ready November 28, 2009.

Speaking to the Saipan Rotary Club he said hopefully the regulations for the federal transitional guest worker program will come out in about two months. The Marianas Variety reported:
“The Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008, or U.S. Public Law 110-229, will provide for the continuation of CNMI employment authorization and allow persons to stay in the CNMI until their current authorization to stay expires,” Gulick said.

“What we are focusing on is for the regulations to have as little adverse impact on the islands’ economy as possible,” he added.
Again, the idea of the CNMI government granting all legal foreigners a two-year status would be a stabilizing move.

New Regulations on Foreign Investors Revealed
The USCIS Proposed Investor Program for the CNMI press release gives details on the program, links and instructions on how to comment on the proposed rule:
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will publish a proposed rule in the Sept. 14, 2009 Federal Register that would recognize a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) specific nonimmigrant investor visa classification. This “E-2 CNMI Investor” status is one of several CNMI specific provisions contained in the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (CNRA), which extends most provisions of federal U.S. immigration law to the CNMI.

These temporary provisions are proposed to provide for an orderly transition from the current CNMI permit system to the immigration laws of the U.S., to lessen potential effects on the CNMI economy, and to give foreign long-term investors time to identify and obtain appropriate U.S. immigrant or nonimmigrant status. The transition period will begin Nov. 28, 2009 and end on Dec. 31, 2014.

This proposed special status of E-2 investors would allow eligible CNMI investors to remain in the CNMI for the duration of the transition period under E-2 CNMI Investor status, and to exit and enter the CNMI with valid E-2 CNMI Investor visas. It is proposed that the E-2 CNMI Investor Visa be issued for two years and be renewable. Derivative visas would be available for spouses and children of the primary applicant.

In line with CNRA, this proposed classification includes “long-term investors”—so only those CNMI investor permits that mandated a fixed minimum threshold amount of investment and are renewable over a period of multiple years would be considered to be “long-term investor” statuses: the Long-Term Business Investor, the Foreign Investor, and the Retiree Investor. Other CNMI investor permits, including the 2-year non-renewable retiree investor program for Japanese and those with short- or regular-term business entry permits, may be eligible to apply for existing nonimmigrant classifications under the INA, such as B-1/B-2 visas.

USCIS proposes that, to be eligible, investors must have been admitted to the CNMI in long-term investor status under CNMI immigration law before the transition program effective date; have continuously maintained residence in the CNMI under long-term investor status; currently maintain the investment(s) that formed the basis for the CNMI long-term investor status; and are otherwise admissible to the United States under the INA.

USCIS proposes using existing Form I-129 (Petitioner for a Nonimmigrant Worker) with Supplement E, for requesting E-2 CNMI Investor status. The current processing fee is $320 plus an $80 biometrics fee.

USCIS encourages the public to submit comments on this proposal by Oct. 14, 2009. All submissions must include “USCIS” and “DHS Docket No. USCIS-2008-0035” and can be submitted in one of the following ways:

Internet - at the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov;
E-mail to USCIS at rfs.regs@dhs.gov and include “DHS Docket No. USCIS- 2008-0035” in subject line; or
Mail/Hand Delivery/Courier - Paper, disk, or CD-ROM submissions to: Chief, Regulatory Management Division, DHS-USCIS, 111 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 3008, Washington, D.C. 20529. Reference “DHS Docket No. USCIS-2008-0035” on the correspondence. Contact telephone number is (202) 272-8377.
The Proposed Rules are posted.

Chamber Weighs In
Saipan Chamber of Commerce President Jim Arenovski commented on the proposed foreign investor rule saying:
“What's most disappointing is that foreign investors will be required to get additional visa outside the CNMI. They need to get extra documents from the U.S. embassy or consulate in Korea or China, for example, to allow them to re-enter the CNMI. That will take hours and days, and it could really be frustrating. The E-2 CNMI investor visa is good only within the CNMI for work purposes; it won't be used for re-entry purposes,” he said.
“It's also a bit disappointing that foreign investors who have been here for a long time won't be grandfathered in the proposed regulations beyond five years. We understand that things will change in the future. But foreign investors who have been here and invested much will have a hard time meeting the federal requirements,” he said.
The same guy who lobbied to get the grandfathering provision for long-term workers removed from the federalization bill, wants foreign investors to be grandfathered! It will be interesting to read what he has to say in his comments.


the teacher said...

Chamberonomics 122…a new commonwealth

The proposed investor visa regulations accompanying the November 28, 2009 federal intervention of NMI labor and immigration from the Department of Homeland Security are comprehensive, flexible, and perfect for the future of the CNMI.

The regulations address all of our concerns with security, dependence on foreign labor, guarantees to increase the standard of living and quality of life for local citizens, reducing the criminal element residing here, will reduce ice and other contraband shipped through the CNMI, will open opportunity for local young people by upgrading the quality of our investors, and will guarantee that the control and governance of our islands will rest with local citizens.

Governor Fitial and the Saipan Chamber of Commerce want to stall federalization. They also want to freeze the minimum wage here, and ensure another generation of local young people struggles to find the American dream. The status quo is not my vision for the Northern Marianas Islands and a recent poll conducted by the Saipan Tribune, showed two thirds of our community opposes stalling federalization.

According to the newspaper, the Saipan Chamber of Commerce president said that while the regulations, as proposed, will weed out “undesirable investors,” the CNMI doesn't need the federal government to do this. “ I think the decent citizens of the CNMI need all the US help possible in achieving this goal. He added “… disappointing that foreign investors who have been here for a long time won't be grandfathered in the proposed regulations beyond five years.” This is great news for the citizens here. According to DHS, “a review of the CNMI eligibility criteria and anecdotal evidence indicates that many of them (meaning our current foreign investors) would not meet the minimum financial investment necessary to be eligible for U.S. E-2 status currently.“ The CNMI absolutely needs investors who have paid the minimum US requirements for visa eligibility. I would not support extending the 2014 deadline for investor compliance to US law.

The US plans to help us develop an economy here, an economy where foreign investors and workers don’t send their money abroad, but keep it here. Wiping the remnants of the garment industry away will pave the way for more affluent investors and tourists who reside here out of love for the natural beauty of these islands and the friendly laid back nature of its inhabitants. Water and oil don’t mix and affluent persons don’t vacation to, or reside in, regions with filth, sleaze, and poverty.

I hope the residents here can unite to revitalize the CNMI and make our island home a prestigious destination that showcases the natural landscape our residents enjoy.

Our local legislature should concentrate on local issues to improve aesthetics, infrastructure, and our business climate. They should prioritize projects such as the proposed Beach Road revitalization, Beautify the CNMI clean-up activities, seeking funding for our water crisis, addressing our canine concerns, ending the land alienation debacle which has stifled progress, and improving our tax code to attract wealthy investors that will employ locals and contribute to our community.

I would like to thank members of the US Department of Homeland Security for such a thorough and well thought out set of regulations.

Saipan Writer said...

Hi, Wendy.

I think we should grant 2 year status to all aliens here, whether presently with a legal status or not, except for tourists who have entered after the CNRA became effective.

I think we should have a complete amnesty on deportations, except for those tourists arriving after the CNRA who are now overstaing and for aliens deportable for conviction of crimes.

Just to be clear...


Wendy said...

Thank you Jane. I agree since most of those who have "Overstayed" are trying to collect back wages.

Wendy said...

and thank you teacher!

Anonymous said...

They "overstayed" because they do not want to return to that garbage heap in Manila Wendy. Not a US Taxpayer problem but a Filipino one.

Perhaps some are due back wages, but that is NOT a DHS problem. Many employees working in the US right now are due back wages. They make it sound like some international incident or something. No there will not be amnesty for illegals, there will be no quick path (or any) to green card heaven and shopping sprees at KMART Guam, this is about economics. Keep that countdown going and when the first batch leave hop on the plane with them.

Anonymous said...

noni 10:00

it is a CNMI problem that thousands of OCWs are owed back wages and damn right it is a US problem. Maybe not a DHS problem but a justice, labor and congress problem. This is US soil here and millions of dollars in back wages translates into big public relations and human rights scandal for the NMI and the US.

captain said...

Hopefully there will many Fed suits against Bonding companies and employers to collect these back wages and wake up the private business owners.
Could that be another reason the "Chamber" wants another delay along with the rest of the elected jumping on board for another delay. It does seem highly unlikely that another delay will happen anyway.

Anonymous said...

Where is the US DOL?

the teacher said...

Jane's letter and suggestion for 2 yr status in transition is a wonderful idea.

Captain has also hit the nail on the head concerning bonding companies and the "chamber's" stance defending the status quo.

Workers that are owe money should be paid and snd temporary status until they are made whole is reasonable.

cactus said...

Jane is right about the two-year plan. That would solve a lot of problems in one fell swoop.

I just wish she would refrain from poisoning her letters with dead-wrong, aggressively pro-federal interpretations of the Covenant, which tend to distract from the value of what she is really saying.

It absolutely IS "a usurpation of our right to self-government to take over immigration." What Jane is really proposing, however, is not a denial of that fact, but rather a way to use that self-government to good effect while we still have it.

Anonymous said...

There are bankrupt employers all over the United States. And throughout the world, for that matter.

Being victimized in this fashion (mostly by fellow countrymen, it bears repeating), does not confer immigration status anywhere else in the U.S.

Why should the CNMI be different? If so, can or should we try to convince Congress that we need a special law to address that here? How long do the victims get? Lifetime (green cards)?

Anonymous said...


you surprisingly said: "It absolutely IS "a usurpation of our right to self-government to take over immigration.""

This is far from absolute. I did have a lengthy discussion with you :


let me post my last comment that answers to this assumption you once again bring up:

"i tried taking a look at the Covenant from your stance. even if i look at the Covenant as an agreement between two sovereign entities. and even if i come to the conclusion that every federal law that would be made applicable to the CNMI should have to get some kind of approval from our side in order to fall into accordance with self-governance, i still can not agree with the current stance in regards to federalization of immigration.

why? because in the document that established this self-governing CNMI we also put in a provision in regards to 3 specific areas of federal law that we AGREED we would allow to be made applicable to the CNMI at a later date by such extent as Congress saw fit at a time of their choosing. In other words, we two sovereigns, already decided on those 3 areas and our population upon ratifying the Covenant OKAY'd it. one of those 3 sections EXPLICITLY laid out in the Covenant is/was the extension of FEDERAL IMMIGRATION LAWS.

so even from your stand point i think it is extremely difficult to negate the fact that immigration control by the federal government at a later date (like nov 28, 2009) was already discussed and agreed upon by both parties. if that is the case, it is us who are violating the Covenant and we would NEED to amend the Covenant if we would like to have a say so in the application of federal immigration laws today."
~by me

Philosopher stoned said...

If a cactus fell in the desert, and nobody was there to hear it, would he still be wrong?

Wendy said...

Anonymous 10:00

Manila is not a "garbage heap". Yes, there are poor sections and it has definite issues like most third world cities, but it is not a garbage heap.

Additionally, not all workers came from Manila or even from the Philippines.

You claim that many employees working in the US are owed back wages. Some are and they have an avenue to collect them. Chances of workers collecting back wages in the mainland are much higher than any chances of collecting back wages in the CNMI. In the CNMI cheated workers file labor cases, and if their employers don't pay DOL's attitude is "It's not our problem." Why? Because the CNMI has regarded guest workers as commodities for three decades. Not as people, but as replaceable commodities and the CNMI thinks that they have an unending supply of labor to exploit. Until guest workers are regarded as valued contributors to the community and economy and treated with the respect that they deserve nothing will change in the CNMI or in the U.S.

What has happened to the thousands of cheated and abused workers in the CNMI IS an international incident. It involves innocent people from over a dozen host countries. It will be a black mark in the history of the U.S. forever.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 5:11 I agree with your analysis.

Anonymous said...

Except such wages are not collected any more often in the mainland U.S.

Employer bankruptcy is commonplace. You have cited no reason why workers in the CNMI should get special treatment over aliens cheated anywhere else in the U.S.

And you are hoping for USCIS flexibility and compassion? Even a war widow and her daughter are undergoing a tremendous struggle.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10:00, maybe it was your first time to see the Philippines. Manila is just one city and not all of manila is heaping with garbage. Your place is just a speck in the middle of the Pacific. Pinhead

cactus said...

You both are assuming that "A shall not occur until B occurs" necessarily means that there are no possible limitations or conditions on the occurrence of B.

If that makes logical sense, may I fall over in the desert with no one to hear me.

Anonymous said...


please explain. what is A and what exactly is B?

captain said...

Without citing specific posters, some seem to forget, that unlike the mainland "illegals", the workers here were recruited and "admitted" here "LEGALLY" under the CNMI law.

They were not allowed any "green Card" status (still not) unless they qualified under a USIS qualification (marriage to US Citizen among other)

Although, initially they were supposed to be working for a max of only three years contract,then depart, the local legislature overturned that restriction and allowed for an indefinite time of renewals while keeping the wages low for the benefit of private sector "connected" owners.

Unlike US "illegals" these NMI workers, once here, cannot go from employer to employer and negotiate on their wages for work, they cannot leave one employer and move to another employer if they are treated badly,if they do not do the employers "bidding", their contract will not be renewed or it will be canceled and they will be sent home, they are "contracted" (stuck)to one employer at one rate. (Most for the same rate regardless of the job performed)
These NMI contract workers were not allowed to have accompanied family members to accompany them. (Under "H" visa, workers family can accompany under "J" visa)

I have read comments around that they "should just get on and apply for the green cards or go home"

Only a few are eligible (present IR)in comparison to the majority and until the minimum income requirements are readjusted they cannot qualify.

Much of this has been stated many times before but it seems like some commenters are not listening or do not comprehend.

Jane can probably elaborate on some of this.

Anonymous said...

The CNMI economy has collapsed in the face of federalization. There will be a surplus of unskilled labor in the Commonwealth for the foreseeable future.

Unemployed foreign national workers should return home so they can make further contributions to their homelands, with our warm thanks for what they have done here.

Inducing them to stay two or five more years is not in the best interests of themselves, the CNMI, the U.S., or their homelands.

These countries now have better economies than the CNMI and need their workers back.

Anonymous said...

The economy collapsed before federalization was even voted on.

Anonymous said...

Federalization of immigration and minimum wages had been pending for years before enactment, and investors well knew it.

We all agree, however, that this is not the sole cause of our plight.

Yet we should still try to fix whatever we can. Visa waivers, particularly for Russia, are one such issue.

red october said...

Thanks CAPTAIN i like your comments as a guest worker you know well our situations, Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10:00

why do you have to single out Filipinos? there are other contract workers from other countries too. are you a broken hearted caused by a filipino? or are turned down by a filipino? or did you lose over a competion with a filipino? have you been in the Philippines to see what the other side of that country is? ask your beloved Governor and other government officials. they go there back & forth, from shopping to medical reasons etc. one of the malls there is even bigger than saipan. you sound like you have not left Saipan at all. go out of your island and see the world. maybe then your outlook in life will be changed. have a life!

Anonymous said...

What mall is bigger than Saipan? The mall of Asia is no bigger than a square mile and Saipan is nearly 40.

Wendy said...

Regardless of how big the mall is, there is no shopping mall like that in Saipan or even Guam. That may have been the point. It has wonderful shops and even has an ice skating rink. My children still talk about it!

Patients from around Asia, including many Americans, go to Makati Medical Center for physical exams. It's reputation for quality health care is renowned.

The beauty of the Philippines cannot be disputed -from the rice terraces, to the chocolate hills, to the volcanoes, to the pristine waters off of Palauan. It is goose-bump inducing gorgeous.

The people are some of the sweetest and most generous I have ever met anywhere in the world.

Yes, there are problems, yes there is vast corruption, yes there is poverty, but there are also millions of great things about the Philippines. The first is the people.

cactus said...

A is the application of US immigration laws in the CNMI.

B is the extension of such laws to the CNMI by Congress.

captain said...

noni 11:40,
many countries do have better economy than CNMI, but they don't want their workers back, they need the remittance back to their countries to keep their economy going.
If you sent them back their workers, they would collapse without the money sent back to their homeland. In the Phil alone, I forget how many Billions of US dollars alone are sent back every year. This does not include the billions from the Maritime workers, which make up a sizable amount of world wide shipping crews.
The Phil. crews make a sizable amount of money per person. It may be the highest paid profession in the Phil. I have a friend that just made Captain, he is making between $4-8K US per month depending on which company's ship he negotiates for.

But many of these countries, like the Phil. is experiencing a "brain drain" in their local work force.

Anonymous said...

True, but if they're unemployed here, hoping to collect on a debt long ago discharged in bankruptcy, they're not sending much home.

There are a surprising number of unemployed foreign national workers here, "taking a chance" that they will get amnesty and status.

Anonymous said...

"There are a surprising number of unemployed foreign national workers here, "taking a chance" that they will get amnesty and status."

Then that is probbly what they are waiting "a chance" so they can resume sending money back home isn't a right decision.. because sure if nothing cahnce at all (after Fed) thenhey will go home..