USCIS Offers Excuses for Mismanaged CW Program

April 23, 2012

So far the USCIS CNMI Guest Worker Program is anything but a success. To say otherwise is to be untruthful.

It has been improperly thought out. It is improperly funded. It is improperly staffed. It has been improperly executed.  It looks like DHS considers it an annoyance or very low on the agency's priority list.

As of April 17, seven months after CW permits started being submitted to the agency, only 20% of the 5,659 petitions with 11,695 beneficiaries in the system have been approved. The CW petitions represent 1,782 different employers in the CNMI. So far 16 petitions representing 18 beneficiaries (foreign workers) were denied.

Also submitted were 1,441 requests from applicants who are seeking parole status. Gulick reported that 135 of them were "permanent residents-type", including those submitted for student parole and H1 workers. A total of 761 are immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.

The Saipan Tribune quoted U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Honolulu district director David Gulick as defending the slow process:
David Gulick said yesterday that approval of Commonwealth-only worker petitions for over 11,000 foreign workers has been delayed mainly because of the sheer number of biometrics that need to be collected, and the difficulty of justifying spending more government resources for the CNMI when there is only a self-imposed deadline to process all these. Besides, despite the delay, foreign workers being petitioned are able to continue their legal stay in the CNMI.
The DHS knew how many applications to expect. The federal ombudsman had registered the foreign workers. Even if they estimated 90% of those with umbrella permits would be applying, it is obvious that USCIS was unprepared or unwilling to properly execute the program.

Instead of fully staffing and funding the CNMI office to handle the large amount of applications for the CW Program, the DHS decided to save money, opt for inefficiency and process applications through an established office in the mainland. Of course, the office already has its own every day work flow to deal with. Of course the officials knew the processing would be untimely. Gulick admitted that the Saipan office charged with collecting biometrics is understaffed! The excuse given not to properly fund and staff the Saipan office in order to have a timely processing of applications is offensive.

The director stated:
“There was no deadline on adjudicating the petitions except what we had self-imposed,” he said.

USCIS had a self-imposed deadline of Jan. 31, 2012, to adjudicate CW petitions, but this turned out to be an ambitious deadline.
This statement suggests that the agency sees no urgency because it lacks the ability to understand the humanity of  each application. It  cannot see the human face behind each piece of paper that sits in the pile. USCIS does not care about the anguish, uncertainty or inability of the workers and their families to plan for their future, rather they care about cost and convenience to the agency.

Of course the deadline is "ambitious" if there is inadequate staff and funding. Why attempt to move a mountain of paperwork with a couple people instead of placing a dedicated and skilled team to accomplish the job in a timely manner? You can move a mountain with a shovel or you can move a mountain with an excavating machine. Which plan is more efficient and wise?

Gulick stated:
“It is hard to justify spending that much government money, resources, when there's no penalty to the delay in the sense that the employee continues to be allowed to work and live in the United States,” Gulick told Saipan Tribune.
Again, there is a lack of urgency, accountability and humanity in these words. The suffering and uncertainty escapes bureaucrats. Additionally, the uncertainty and long wait has adversely impacted business owners, employers and the economy.

Gulick's remarks were made in presentations to the Saipan Chamber of Commerce and the CNMI Chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management. Was there even a session scheduled to address the foreign workers who represent the majority of the people impacted by the delays?

USCIS made a point to claim that the processing of theI-128CW petitions were not behind schedule. In a defensive statement USCIS Regional Media Manager Marie Therese Sebrechts stated:
“That is not true. In reality, the USCIS California Service Center is processing CW petitions within established timeframes for those beneficiaries who have completed biometrics processing.”
How long has it taken to get to the point of the biometric processing in the lengthy application process? The "timeframe" is actually whatever the USCIS determines it to be if I am not mistaken.

Sebrechts added:
“If a beneficiary or beneficiaries of an I-129CW petition had their biometrics taken more than 45 days ago, and the petitioner has not received correspondence about their petition, they may contact us at CNMI.CSC@uscis.dhs.gov.” 
In this regard, Sebrechts suggested that petitioners provide the following information: the receipt number of the petition (the number on the receipt that starts with “WAC”) and the name of each beneficiary, with the date(s) that each beneficiary appeared at the ASC in Garapan or another location in Tinian or Rota to have their biometrics taken.
Obviously, the DHS does not have the inclination to find the needed money, time or staff to run an efficient CW Program. If this agency thinks that the timeline they have been following, whether self-imposed or not, is a good one then they are incorrect.

It would make much more sense to grant permanent residency status to the legal, long-time foreign workers who have lived and worked in the CNMI 5 or more years. Those with secure jobs and decent employers could stay and those without or seeking greener pastures would be free to leave. Where is the congressional oversight?

I would like to see USCIS address whether or not they will be allowing CW permits to employers who blatantly participate in wage theft. Start with responding about Tinian Dynasty and CHC. Will  they be allowed to continue to hire foreign workers when they steal from them? What are the standards?

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Foreign workers should be thankful that US Taxpayers are even footing this bill. They are not US Citizens. They are lucky the Federal government funnels money to help and support their application process at all. We are in a recession / depression. Unemployment is over 8%. There are few jobs. Most foreign workers in the CNMI are using their US Citizen children to get welfare. Check your facts.

Anonymous said...

there are also many US licensed professionals,nurses, that are being affected by immigration problems, we professionals do not need welfare checks, green cards, us passport, the hospitals and clinics here want to hire but with all this immigration problem its hard. nurses are quitting here in saipan and the foreign nurses that can replace them cant work because of your federal goverment. WE are well educated, know more about the US than the country we originated in, we who sacrificed, worked hard, and did not rely on federally funded training programs are held back due to your federal goverment.

Anonymous said...

there are also many US licensed professionals,nurses, that are being affected by immigration problems, we professionals do not need welfare checks, green cards, us passport, the hospitals and clinics here want to hire but with all this immigration problem its hard. nurses are quitting here in saipan and the foreign nurses that can replace them cant work because of your federal goverment. WE are well educated, know more about the US than the country we originated in, we who sacrificed, worked hard, and did not rely on federally funded training programs are held back due to your federal goverment

Anonymous said...

All this complaining about how hard it is to do business here..compared to where, the PI, Bangaldesh, Thailand?? Now you understand how it is in the U.S. There are regulations that need to be adhered to. The old CNMI not so much, that is why you have thousands of OFWs with a minimal education who are allowed to remain here in what is now the U.S. for immigration purposes. The allowing them to remain here is temporary and will expire in only a couple years. Yes there are many here with full degrees they earned in their home country but do many of those degrees and certifications meet U.S. standards? Probably not otherwise they would be working as RNs and other jobs in the mainland US. There will be no waving of a magic wand to grant status to them and that is the reality whether people want to face it or not. They have two years to find a current US non immigrant or immigrant status to obtain..obtain legally that is,,,, with the amount of fraud in the marraiges claims and in CW visa applications no wonder CIS needs to take its time... CIS will be even more skeptical of any applications coming out of the CNMI in the future...the US government doesn't operate the way the third world does or even as this third world CNMI did..

Anonymous said...

This isn't the program we expected from the USA. There's alot of disappointment and frustration all around.

Anonymous said...

Wendy

The US is in an economic depression. There are no funds to "staff" a huge office on Saipan to process foreign workers. The Federal government does not look at each piece of paper for the humanity. They look at numbers and facts. That's it. Did the Unity Marchers believe that they would get special treatment? Why? Because they're Filipinos? Please.

Anonymous said...

i understand the frustration but the CNMI is part of the USA for these purposes now. This is what being a part of the US system of immigration is. Each case is reviewed on the merits of whether or not it qualifies under the law. That is how it is done.....I think they have done more than they were required to do and continue to do so....but please lets not look for scam ways to try and go around the system....USCIS and ICE won't tolerate it for long and they have seen the scam marriages and employers all before attempted by smarter folks than we have here in the CNMI and they don't get away with it...It won't be long before the hammer comes down......

Anonymous said...

Some of the previous comments identify the issue better than your rant. The fact is that CIS has limited resources for all of its activities. Each budget season, priorities are made and funds allocated based on those priorities. CIS is generally underfunded and support for certain visa programs such as H1 given higher priority because the economic impact of those workers is higher than CW.

I don't think CIS lacks humanity, otherwise it would have done more enforcement actions than have currently been performed. It just needs to work with what is available.

Moreover, this is the first time many of the contract workers have been put through the ringer for the necessary checks under U.S. immigration law. It will be easier in the future for CW renewals. Generally, the applicant would still be in their home country as these checks are performed.

As for some of the anon comments about this being the United States. Yes, that is true, but we do also believe in due process. These people were lawfully admitted by the CNMI, which was granted authorization to control immigration under federal auspices. Congress could have put the kabosh on the bad practices years and years ago. But it chose to ignore what went on.

I have a strong feeling many of the long-term aliens will be granted humanitarian parole as they have established lives and families on Saipan. Had they been in the mainland, most would have green cards and many would be citizens. Fair is fair.

Wendy Doromal said...

8:26

This is not intended to be a "rant", but an objective observation. It is based on my opinion and shared by folks in Washington and many foreign workers who have corresponded with me. There has been an ongoing pattern of not properly funding federal offices in the CNMI to the extreme detriment of the foreign workers. H1 is given priority? Several workers have complained that they too are waiting for their H1 papers to be processed and lamented the long delays.

"Humanitarian parole" is a permanent solution? I don't think so. The only humanitarian and just action would be to have given (or now give) the legal, long-term foreign workers permanent residency. As you said, "Had they been in the mainland, most would have green cards and many would be citizens. Fair is fair." EXACTLY!