June 3, 2013
I am sending you this email to show my disappointment regarding the current CNMI provision on immigration bill. I would like to share with you my point of view and the following is my brief background history.
I am a long-term investor in the CNMI. I came to Saipan in 1988, almost 25 years now. I came as an investor. I have always viewed Saipan as my home. I have my own business and employ staff. I used to have a team of 10 workers in my company. Unfortunately, it has been downsized due to the poor economy. My husband and I are currently holding E2 CNMI investor visas. However, the proposed immigration bill does not address CNMI long-term investors. We are not allowed to maintain our business and stay in the CNMI after 2014. It would be frustrating if CNMI long-term investors are excluded as we are the people who create jobs on the island. I am an investor but I also work as a manager in my business. Besides, the requirement and process is far more complicated getting an E2c visa than getting a CW visa. For instance, investing a minimum amount of money in the CNMI for investment and maintaining the business. As a result, I am not satisfied with the immigration provision that long-term investors are not included. I believe CNMI investors deserve better and should be granted immediate U.S. citizenship instead.
I realized that there are approximately 500 E2c holders in the CNMI, a lot less compared to the number of CW holders, which are estimated at over 10,000. As far as I know, I understand that E2c status is intended to help as the CNMI transitions from the CNMI permit system to U.S. immigration laws or to give investors an opportunity to either qualify for U.S. investor status or to re-organize their businesses and relocate. According to USCIS, “Individuals in the CNMI with E-2 CNMI status must depart the CNMI at the end of the transition period or qualify for and obtain another nonimmigrant or immigrant status in order to lawfully remain in the CNMI.” I consider this statement to be unfair to those E2c holders that cannot obtain any other immigrant status under the U.S. immigration laws and are forced to leave when the transition finishes after 2014. My husband and I both came legally as investors to the CNMI in late 1980s; nearly three decades and we are not given a pathway to citizenship. It is inhumane and unjust when contributions made by the long-term investors have not been recognized and not granting us immediate citizenship.
I also object adding any extensions for transition period. Speaking on the business industry prospect, an additional five year will not change the devastating economy of the CNMI; it will deteriorate more. I believe that this is likely to have a further detrimental effect on our already ailing economy. To be honest, my business has faced the toughest time over the last five years in the transition period. My business could hardly survive because of the poor economy in the CNMI but I am positive about the future of Saipan. Therefore, I did not choose to close down my business and leave Saipan when federal immigration took place in 2009. I have been looking forward to any news or good policies that can revive the economy. Unfortunately, it seems like my E2c investor status has put my 25-year business in risk. I am uncertain what I should do and where to go, worried about leaving Saipan, the place I call home. It will be a nightmare for all long-term CNMI investors when the transition period ends in 2014. It is also difficult to maintain business when most of the legal foreign workers are hesitant about their residency status. A large number of foreign investors are in doubt to invest in the CNMI because of the difficulties and uncertainties we are facing. The only solution is giving out citizenships to qualified legal aliens and the public will have confidence to invest.
I am certain that long-term investors are assets to the community and the CNMI needs us. I wish the people in the CNMI can understand the tough situation which E2c investors are facing. I hope that Congress will take this into account when working on the immigration bill, as I believe “all men should be treated with justice” and for sure long-term investors are no exceptions.
Christine K. Lee