April 21, 2011
|Photo by W. L. Doromal ©2010|
The bill only recognizes four specific groups as qualifying for upgraded status:
(I) was born in the Northern Mariana Islands between January 1, 1974, and January 9, 1978;Any immigration bill related to the long-term nonresident workers in the CNMI should address ALL of the long-term foreigner workers, not just selected groups. I agree with the upgrading of status for the CNMI permanent residents and those born in the CNMI January 1, 1974, and January 9, 1978, but object to the restrictions and selectiveness in the category of long-term foreign workers. Omitting certain categories of equally qualifying workers because of their marital status or reproductive status is discriminatory and perhaps unconstitutional. Is the delegate saying that people who are married or people who have U.S. citizen children are in some way more qualified to work and live permanently in the CNMI than foreigners who have lived and worked there the same length of time or longer and are single, or have foreign children or no children? I find that disturbing and unjust.
(II) was, on May 8, 2008, a permanent resident as that term is defined in section 4303 of Title 3 of the Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth Code in effect on May 8, 2008;
(III) is the spouse or child, as defined in section 101(b)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(b)(1)), of an alien described in subclauses (I) or (II); or
(IV) was, on May 8, 2008, an immediate relative, as that term is defined in section 4303 of Title 3 of the Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth Code in effect on May 8, 2008, of a United States citizen, not withstanding the age of the United States citizen, and continues to be such an immediate relative on the date of the application described under subparagraph (A).
The legislation allows those selected-only nonresidents who resided in the CNMI as of November 28, 2009 to qualify for the improved status. If the legislation passes it would mean that even an alien who was in the CNMI even for a limited time would receive improved status and a person who has legally lived and worked in the CNMI for 30 years, but has no U.S. citizen spouse or children will be overlooked. That is plain wrong.
Another concern I have is the CNMI-only provision. I interpret the CNRA as attempting to align the CNMI with U.S. immigration laws. I believe it is unwise to provide special classification for certain territories and states and view this as a step backwards that conflicts with the intent of the law.
The proposed legislation would allow selected-only long-term workers to remain in the CNMI under a CNMI-residency status, but would prohibit travel to the United States. It is as if the long-term workers will be bound to the islands to benefit the CNMI, in that the needed workforce will be ensured, but the workers will remain under a restricted status that would not apply in another place on U.S. soil. The law recognizes that this status would cease if and when the alien's status is adjusted to permanent U.S. residency (green card) under the U.S. immigration laws.
I am certain that some will also note that some classes of nonresidents listed in this bill (those married to an IR and those with U.S. citizen children) would eventually qualify to become permanent residents. Those married to IRs qualify to get green cards by completing the application process if they meet the income and other requirements. Because the CNMI has low minimum wage the fees should be waived.
I will submit a statement to the committee regarding my concerns and making recommendations for revisions.