End the CW Program

January 22, 2013

With 2014 approaching, a decision has to be made on an extension of the flawed CNMI-Only Transitional Worker Program.

My recommendation would be to end it, not extend it.  Grant the legal, long-term foreign workers permanent status and hire any of the few foreign workers that may be needed under existing (or hopefully reformed) U.S. immigration law and existing visas.

Why should legal aliens, who have resided in a locality for 5, 10, 20, 30 or MORE years, have to jump through even one more hoop to remain in a community that is their only home? What sense does it make to have annual applications, fees and to continue the suffering and uncertainty? When should a labor unit be recognized as a permanent resident, as a person? Enough already.

The Saipan Tribune reported that the Commonwealth Heath Center filed 120 CW petitions for nurses and other healthcare workers in December 2011. As of January 2013 only 36 of those petitions have been approved.

I have to wonder why were nurses even petitioned under the CW Program? Why didn't the CHC file H-1 visas for these professionals? Never the less, the time that it has taken USCIS to process applications is totally unacceptable.

CHC CEO Juan Babauta was quoted:
“This is causing uncertainty not only to the affected employees but to the public hospital as well because these worried workers are the critical staff of CHC. It's very disappointing that after a year of filing, we only got 36 approvals to date,” Babauta told Saipan Tribune. 
Pursuant to USCIS directive, a non-immigrant worker with pending CW application may continue to work. However, a new USCIS policy states that a foreign worker with a pending CW renewal application is not allowed to work until the petition is approved. Because of this situation, this creates instability among affected hospital employees.
It is not just the CHC that is impacted. Other foreign workers and businesses are facing uncertainty and suffering under this program. Over a year after the initial petitions were submitted almost 20% have still not been processed. Considering that every month new petitions are submitted, delays will continue to create hardships for foreign workers, the businesses and economy.

Travel for foreign workers to return to their homelands for vacations or medical care also remains a problem. When will these de facto citizens be accepted as future citizens?

The U.S. Secretary of Labor makes the decision whether or not to extend the program past December 2014. Since Secretary Hilda Solis has resigned her position, we do not know if the new secretary will be someone who is familiar with the history of the CNMI foreign workers, the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker Program and its problems. How long will it take to get this person up-to-date in having even the simplest understanding of the true situation?

End it already.


Anonymous said...

I am an RN hired by CHC but i cannot work until my cw visa gets approved...it has been 6 months since they have filed for my cw and im not the only one...not good

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that you don't qualify for a CW if you are eligible for any other work authorization (such as an H1B...

Anonymous said...

i have an associates degree in nursing, for me to qualify for a H1B i need a Bachelors degree which if this cw program was not implemented i would have already have my Bachelors because i would have been hired and have the money to pay for it.

Anonymous said...

can u be certified by a U.S. Accredited Agency as an RN with a Associates Degree?????

Anonymous said...

Yes, NMC has a ASN nursing program. Google it.You need to do some research.

Anonymous said...

A major problem with the CHC nurses deals with the housing allowance. If any resident nurses are earning 8-10K less (due to the housing allowance) than a non-resident nurse, the CW visa for that non-resident nurse should be denied.

Also, CHC really has no intention of recruiting U.S. resident nurses to replace the non-resident nurses. U.S. nurses have options and will quit or go on strike if they are mistreated. If a nurse from the U.S. called the CHC human resources to inquire about a vacancy, I guarantee that unless they know someone at the hospital already, they will not be considered. Even if they hold a CNMI license, they will not be offered a phone interview when there are on-island non-resident nurses available.