January 22, 2013
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.