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.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."
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.
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.
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.There's nothing to add. She is exactly right.
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!
Ready for Federalization
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.Again, the idea of the CNMI government granting all legal foreigners a two-year status would be a stabilizing move.
“What we are focusing on is for the regulations to have as little adverse impact on the islands’ economy as possible,” he added.
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.The Proposed Rules are posted.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
“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.