December 7, 2012
David Gulick, the USCIS Honolulu director, announced that CW workers will not be allowed to work while they wait for their renewal permit, but they can remain in the CNMI.
Gulick recommended that employers file application renewals 90 days before the expiration of the original permit. That advice should be considered hollow considering that there is a significant number of the original I-129CW petitions that still have not been processed. In fact, only about half of the original petitions have been processed by November 2012, almost a year after they were submitted.
By March 2012 only one-fifth of the CW petitions that had been submitted from October 2011 had been processed.
By July 2012 only 5,911 of the total 12,139 CW petitions had been processed. At this time when asked about the delay, a USCIS spokesperson said they had no intention of increasing the staff. In other words, USCIS saw no problem with the unacceptably long processing time. Workers and employers could look forward to more suffering, uncertainty and problems associated with the delay.
By September USCIS had processed 6020 I-129CW petitions or about half of the 12,139 CW petitions that had been submitted.
By November 13, 2012, 6,220 petitions representing 1, 863 different employees had been reviewed. A total of 4,896 petitions representing 8,733 beneficiaries had been approved and 418 petitions representing 612 beneficiaries had been denied. A spokesperson stated that the remaining petitions required additional evidence.
Let's look at this. If a foreign worker's original CW permit expires and the renewal permit has not been processed, that foreign worker will be allowed to stay on U.S. soil for however long it takes to process the renewal CW permit; however he/she will not be allowed to work until the permit is approved. Considering the USCIS snail's pace track record, how does USCIS imagine that these people will be able to survive without an income to pay for food, pay for health care expenses, or to pay necessary bills like rent, utilities and such?
How could the employer run his or her business without the skilled employee? Will they just scramble to find a U.S. citizen replacement? That shouldn't be easy, since they would have already gone through the process of eliminating any qualified U.S. applicant. How will this impact CNMI's already rock bottom economy?
Amazingly, David Gulick stated that "it could be an opportunity for the employer to allow the worker to go on vacation while the renewal application is pending."
Most of the foreign workers earn less than $6.00 an hour and many have no savings. Their employers do not provide paid vacation time, and most do not even provide sick leave. Where does Gulick suggest that they vacation? The Salvation Army food line? I doubt that any forced "vacation" will be appreciated by anyone. What is restful about trying to figure out how you and your family will survive?
As the latest CNMI census records indicate, there are not enough local people to fill all the positions in the private sector in the CNMI. According to the 2010 Census, of the 53,883 making up the total population of the CNMI, 18,800 were Pacific Islanders while 26,908 were Asians. The reports shows that 24,826 people were employed in the CNMI with 19,092 in the private sector, 5,313 in government sector, and the remaining were self-employed or unpaid working family members. Since there were over 12,000 petitions for foreign workers submitted in 2011, one can assume that the majority of the workers in the private sector are foreigners.
We should recognize that the CNMI-Only Transitional Guest Worker Program regards the foreign workers as applicants on paper to be processed, rather than as human beings. The program lacks humanity. Suggestions that it should be a "model" for the nation sickens me.
Isn't it time to stop the flawed and expensive CNMI-Only Transitional Worker Program and issue green cards to all of the legal, long term foreign workers in the CNMI?