USCIS Immigration System is a Huge Mess in the CNMI

May 26, 2016

W. L. Doromal

It was clear that the federal CNMI-only immigration system had serious flaws from soon after it was implemented. Now that the program is coming to a close, a humanitarian crisis looms.

The USCIS imposed cap of 12,999 CW permits for 2016. It was reached this month, meaning that no more nonresident workers can be hired or renewed this year. That includes nonresident workers whose permits expire later this year. Many of them have lived and worked in the CNMI for 15 or more years.

From the Marianas Variety:
CW-1 workers has already been reached for fiscal year 2016, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will reject CW-1 petitions received after May 5, 2016 and those that request an employment start date before Oct. 1, 2016. 
This includes CW-1 petitions for extensions of stay subject to the CW-1 cap. The filing fees will be returned with any rejected CW-1 petition, USCIS said in a media release. 
“If an extension petition is rejected, then the beneficiaries listed on that petition are not permitted to work beyond the validity period of the previously approved petition, Therefore, affected beneficiaries, including any CW-2 derivative family members of a CW-1 nonimmigrant, must depart the CNMI within 10 days after the CW-1 validity period has expired, unless they have some other authorization to remain under U.S. immigration law.” 
Several private-sector employers are expected to be significantly affected by the USCIS announcement.
I spoke to one nonresident worker yesterday by phone. He has lived in the CNMI for 19 years and is beyond despondent and panicked. His permit expires later this year and cannot be renewed because the cap has been met. He stated he will have to leave within ten days of the expiration and has absolutely no home to return to in his home country of Bangladesh. His family is here under separate permits.

Nineteen years is not a temporary gig. Thousands of nonresidents who are impacted by this crisis are truly de facto citizens. They have lived and worked in the CNMI most of their adult lives.

CNMI and U.S. leaders, politicians and officials should accept the blame for the immigration mess in the CNMI. The failure to provide a status provision in the original law was the first huge mistake.  Everyone knew that there was not an adequate workforce to replace the tens of thousand of nonresident workers that fueled the CNMI economy.

In the end, selfishness and prejudice won over common sense and the ethical choice. H.R. 3079 passed in 2008 becoming U.S. P. L. 110-229, the Consolidated Natural Resources Act (CNRA). It passed without providing a logical provision for status for the legal, longterm nonresident workers. (Read more about the background and mistakes in this older post.)

There was however, a provision in the bill mandating that the U.S. Department of Interior make a recommendation to the U.S. Congress regarding a secure status for the nonresident workers. The 2010 DOI Report on Status for the CNMI Nonresidents that was mandated in the CNRA, P.L. 110-229 stated:
"Consistent with the goals of comprehensive immigration reform, we recommend that the Congress consider permitting alien workers who have lawfully resided in the CNMI for a minimum period of five years to apply for long-term status under the immigration and nationality laws of the United States."
This recommendation provided the perfect opportunity to correct past mistakes and enact critical legislation. A bill would have passed if DOI, Deputy Secretary of Insular Affairs Tony Babauta pushed it and if Delegate Gregorio Sablan had introduced legislation to make the recommendation law. At that time President Obama had both a Democratic House and Senate, so the passage was certain. As often is the case, the CNMI leaders and politicians put their own political careers ahead of justice, democratic principles and humanitarian needs. No bill was introduced.

But enough with looking backwards. What can be done today? The CNMI leaders could introduce legislation to grant temporary CNMI-status to the legal, longterm nonresidents –those who have worked in the CNMI five or more years. This would benefit the CNMI business owners, economy and the nonresidents until a more permanent solution is achieved.

Additionally, Delegate Sablan could introduce legislation that would grant green cards and a pathway to citizenship to all legal, longterm nonresident workers. For decades U.S. officials and members of Congress have told me, "Committees bow to the wishes of the territories' delegates." There certainly is nothing to lose by trying.

Discussions with the Obama Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, USCIS must take place immediately to avert an economic and humanitarian crisis.

One thing is for sure, the CNMI's Government's never ending search to find qualified U.S. citizens to replace the workers is futile.  There just are not enough locals to fill the thousands of positions and no amount of recruiting will lure enough U.S. citizens to relocate from the mainland to work for poverty-level wages.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Wendy for coming back! CNMI leaders and Kilili will point their fingers to USCIS but remember 3 fingers are pointing back to them. They think that it is always "Christmas time" in the CNMI. Enough for receiving free gifts and other freebies from USCIS. Kilili MUST have the balls to stand up, talk with CNMI leaders, politicians etc etc to grant status to the long-term nonresident workers. It will free enough CW-1's slots from the CAP that businesses could use to hire CW-1's. Believe me, they will focus their eyes, brains and minds in asking for extension rather than improve status but even they are given 10 more years, there will be insufficient workers to sustain CNMI growth. And well, all employers including AMERICANS are enjoying the cheap wages, slave-like treatment and status uncertainties for nonresident workers. God help the CNMI!!!!!

Anonymous said...

One more thing Best Sunshine does not want to keep locals and you can ask Mr. Brown why? Being late, extended breaks and unreasonable absences. Termination on first offense, DOL must have exit interview with these terminated workers. Brown dneeds to do that because they are getting new workers from China under CW-1. An Oscar award for Brown....for his comment..."I can't sleep".

Anonymous said...

You are right,something fishy is going on.Who else will leave over minor infractions.More Islanders need to be accepted for work at Best Sunshine not the Chinese.I thought that Best Sunshine was to have 65% Americans working.Islanders are Americans!!!

Anonymous said...

The CNMI cannot grant any immigration status to any non-resident worker. Immigration is under Federal Law not CNMI law. Remember that this is what everyone wanted, the Federalization of CNMI Immigration. The only problem is no one bothered to actually read what that meant.

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 5:10

I know at one time, Rep. Tina Sablan proposed a kind of CNMI status for nonresidents. At the very LEAST the CNMI leaders can call for US status -green cards and a pathway to citizenship for all legal, long-term nonresidents. As I have been told repeatedly over the last few decades -"When the territory leaders ask and the request does not impact other states, their requests are usually granted."

Wendy Doromal said...

5:10 As for your comment, "Nobody actually read what it meant." People read, and people made suggestions for improvements from the time the law was being written throughout the whole transition period. I was one who traveled to Washington to the markup hearing to plead that the status provision be left in. Racist haters with power got it removed. And THAT is the reality. You might want to read and learn about the work of people to revise and improve the system. You could also read about the horrific abuses that workers suffered under the CNMI immigration system.

Anonymous said...

CNMI-Washington DC rep and CNMI governor are going to ask for another 15 years extension of CW-1 program when they start meeting with the assistant secretary of DOI for 902 talks. Covenant has been changed by CNRA or Public law: 110-229. No CNMI official would like to accept it. Notorious former CNMI governor and racist haters removed the improved immigration status provision from CNRA before it was passed. Still No CNMI official want to say, “For how long exactly do they need foreign worker in CNMI?” Time is running out. They have to make a decision SOON if they support those affected CW workers to be granted “Humanitarian parole in place status” for at least they can work and remain in CNMI. USCIS have the discretion authority to approve this. CNMI governor and DOI assistant secretary need to ask THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF USCIS to allow these workers to stay and work in CNMI with “Humanitarian parole in place status”.

Anonymous said...

To quote you, "At that time President Obama had both a Democratic House and Senate" if so the Democratic Party is to blame because to quote you again,No bill was introduced. Any Democratic Senator or Representative could have introduced such a bill and you state it would have passed. Current Rep Sablan for some reason didn't get a bill introduced. The CNRA is the CNRA, the CW program is exactly what it was intended to be. All the talk about improved status, as important as it may be was never intended by the CNRA or the CW program. Those who thought it was going to happen did so without any concrete evidence that it would. Not the Feds fault.....

Wendy Doromal said...

10:49 Status was intended and was in the original version of the CNRA, but racist CNMI and Guamanian leaders got it removed. I was at the mark up hearing fighting for it to remain. I was told that the provision that called for a report on status within 3 years would ensure congressional action. It didn't happen. It didn't happen because Sablan did not move and Fitial and racist haters opposed the report. You said, "Any Democrat could have introduced it." Sure, but they would have had to have KNOWN about the situation. Having pleaded with many members of Congress (both Democrat and Republican) to introduce legislation for status I learned that committees bow to the delegate from the territory impacted by the legislation. I believe Sablan didn't get the legislation introduced because he considered the wishes of greedy businessmen that love their labor with poverty wages, and politicians who fear that if nonresidents got status they could vote. Better keep them disenfranchised and dependent on their employers for yearly renewals. This is NOT the federal system that I advocated for. I have made my opinion known for ten years. Read all of my past posts! Absolutely, it is the feds fault as much as the CNMI leaders' fault. Look at how Sablan and federal officials supported the end of the Ombudsman's Office. It was a horrific move to silence the abused and to deny disenfranchised nonresidents who make up the majority of the workforce the only place for assistance. Who approved it? FEDS!

Wendy Doromal said...

6:27 i will oppose it. There is no need for an extension. They can grant green cards to the legal, longterm nonresidents and have the workforce that they need. How dare them request an extension of an un-American, undemocratic system of oppression and disenfranchisement. Anyone supporting an extension is motivated by greed, politics and is guided by a broken moral compass.

Anonymous said...

I am glad you will oppose an extension. the program needs to end. Companies in the CNMI need to utilize the current temp worker visas available under the INA just as Guam and Hawaii need to in order to petition for foreign workers. This will force the companies to pay more than 6.55 hour.

Then they can recruit workers from Guam, the other Pacific Islands,the Mainland, without needing approval to work in the U.S. Once this happens it will free up the foreign workers already in the CNMI and they can pursue options in other countries with a better system or go back and enjoy the money they sent home.

It does not matter if the person desires to stay in the CNMI or not, the law does not allow it and never has. If a person currently in the CNMI on a temporary visa is eligible to apply and be granted one of the many immigrant "permanent" statuses they are encouraged to apply for it. Otherwise when their temporary visa expires they need to go. No one is telling workers in the CNMI the facts.


Most experts don't expect any "reform" by 2019 and the way this election is shaping up, if there is any it won't be favorable...........

Wendy Doromal said...

3:52 Oppose an extension -support a solution.

Anonymous said...

I think the solution is to force companies to utilize foreign contract workers as a last resort and not a go to option. That is the intent of the transition. As to contract workers that will be out of a job and out of a status that is a separate issue, one that if not resolved before their status ends requires them to depart. Wanting to stay doesn't play into it if they are not eligible to stay under current law. This is not new and has been the fact since 2009, no one can claim they didn't know or didn't have time to prepare for this eventuality whether they chose to believe it could happen or not.

The hope and a prayer that some day it may come has never been a reason to remain. Almost ten years have passed and we are no closer for folks, who are still here for any number of reasons, being allowed to remain with a status.
Sad for some people, no debate about that but it is a fact of life.......

Wendy Doromal said...

12:46 We are talking about peoples' lives -individuals and families. A country cannot bring in people and treat them like disposable, replaceable commodities. Some of these nonresidents have worked in the CNMI for two or three decades! They deserve a pathway to citizenship. Shame on DOI, the US Congress and selfish CNMI businesses and 'leaders' for looking at the economic problem not the humanitarian problem that they created.

Anonymous said...

The CNMI Government needs to recruit skilled workers from Puerto Rico. All it takes is a relationship with a recruiting/employment agency in San Juan. Puerto Rican workers would be happy to come to the CNMI. The parallels between Puerto Rico and Saipan would make for an easy transition and adjustment into the culture. Puerto Rico citizens do not fall under under any immigration regulations and can work and travel freely in the U.S.
This type of arrangement would help Puerto Rico, and help the CNMI at the same time. Since Wendy claims to be a "human rights" champion - why not help the people of Puerto Rico and get this started? Or do you prefer to help them when the entire population of PR moves into Florida???

Anonymous said...

Wendy, even the FEDS grant improved status to the long term nonresident workers the CNMI would not have enough workers for 15 more years considering the CAP. But giving improved status would help the CNMI a lot. GREED is the factor hindering their coconut heads to think about this. ALL CONTRACT WORKERS...DO YOU SEE OR HEAR ANY NEWS FROM LOCAL POLITICIANS, BUSINESS LEADERS AND U.S./LOCAL BUSINESS OWNERS ABOUT THE IDEA OF GIVING IMPROVED STATUS TO NR WORKERS? NONE, BECAUSE THEY DON'T WANT TO ENTERTAIN THIS IDEA. They prefer to hold their employees by their balls or with a leash. This is CNMI problem since the 90's and until now and until 2019......2029....2050...this is just a never ending story. Only the casts/characters change like Tony Babauta, Fitial, Kilili etc. etc. I also don't believe with the FEDS fairness on this issue. The sad thing is.... clock is ticking and one by one my workers would leave and the same will happen to anybody NRW who is reading this now. IT IS WRONG TO ASSUME THAT USCIS WOULD GIVE HUMANITARIAN PAROLE TO A HOLDER OF CW-1 AS YOU READ ON OTHER WEBSITES BECAUSE USCIS WON'T...IT IS A FALSE HOPE!SHAME ON YOU CNMI!!!!

Anonymous said...

You should also warn people about attorneys who say they can help, for a fee. USCIS has already warned contract workers that no lawyer can "help" them with their immigration issues. What they do not need now is to squander their money filing papers for a lawyer at $200 per hour.

Anonymous said...

GOVERNOR Ralph Torres will lead the CNMI TEAM in the forthcoming 902 talks with President Barak Obama’s special representative. Can they submit a recommendation to USCIS- U.S Department of Homeland security secretary to grant at least “Parole in place with employment work authorization documents” for these affected CW-1 foreign workers with some terms and conditions (SUCH AS a foreign worker has to prove at least 10 or 15 years of continuous stay in CNMI) to remain and work in CNMI? So the CAP that USCIS is imposing on CNMI every year will not affect the businesses in CNMI. New developers in CNMI will have enough workers to get any project done before or after 2019. Instead of CW program to extend, offer a permanent solution at least allow these workers to work continuously and travel to their home countries freely under “Parole in place” but restrict them to get to the rest of the United States of America as stated in PL 110-229 or CNRA. There is a great chance, USCIS or United States of Homeland Security will approve this under discretion authority as the way Chinese and Russian tourists are given “Visa waiver or parole in CNMI”, Please think of common sense and help before it is too late. SO present shortage of CNMI labor pool will recover and will have sufficient workforce always available.

Anonymous said...

“Why don’t I just go ahead and push for status like I did before? I want to but the composition of Congress has changed,” Sablan said, noting Republican ranks that have ousted its own Republicans like former Rep. Eric Cantor in primary election, and how they “kicked out” former House speaker John Boehner. [per Kilili]

“…That’s power,” Sablan said.

Why? It is not "that's power", YOU AND THE CNMI POLITICIANS AND UNLIKELY LEADERS want to retain the "status quo". Slaves, slaves, slaves in the form of CW-1, the lowest form of U.S. work permit. CNMI is not thinking right, a blogger on MV said CNMI needs to ask [and BEG] for a 30,000 CW-1 cap and not 18,000 because, because they will likely return to the 902 talk over and over again. This is CNMI...BAND-AID solution as always! Long-tern solution.....I DOUBT IT! God bless the CNMI!

Wendy Doromal said...

8:10 Kilili could and SHOULD request status. That explanation is another lame excuse. Just because Republicans want to hold democracy hostage with their obstructive ways doesn't mean others have to accept it and follow along. These do nothing, excuse-making, members of Congress should not even be accepting a paycheck from the American people.

Anonymous said...

Republicans are not to blame. Democrats are to blame. President Barack Obama could have if he wanted to grant all CWs improved stats but...he didn't did he? At a point in time, the Democrats controlled both houses and nothing was done. Do not use this situation as a Republican agenda. Now is the time to protect the CWs against further harm from money grubbing lawyers and those who want to be re elected in the CNMI.

Anonymous said...

Can cnmi foreign workers file a lawsuit case against cnmi govt? Just asking?

Anonymous said...

Wendy, thanks for being here in the midst of all these things. God bless you, the non-resident workers and families.

Anonymous said...

Why does Best Sunshine got approved on June 4 for 80 cws submitted on May 23?

Anonymous said...

COMMENTS BELOW ARE FROM MARIANAS VARIETY DATED 06/10/16. CAN THESE BE FORWARDED TO PHILIPPINE NEWSPAPERS SO THAT THE NEWLY ELECTED PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE [DU30] AND SOON TO BE LABOR OFFICIALS COULD READ THESE? I HOPE POEA WILL NOT GIVE CLEARANCE TO NEW CW-1 HIRES UNTIL THE MESS IN CNMI IS RESOLVED.

PRESIDENT RODY DUTERTE, WE HOPE THAT YOU WOULD ADDRESS THE PLIGHTS OF THE OFW'S WHEREVER THEY ARE. WE HOPE AS WELL THAT YOU WILL BRING DOWN THE US$ TO PESO CONVERSION RATE IN THE VERY NEAR FUTURE SO THAT NO ONE WOULD GO TO OTHER COUNTRIES, BE SEPARATED WITH THEIR FAMILIES, ABUSED BY EMPLOYERS AND HUMILIATED BY ANONYMOUS BLOGGERS LIKE THESE WHOM I WISH TO BE BOLD AND BRAVED ENOUGH TO PUT THEIR REAL NAMES SO THAT YOU COULD GIVE THEM A VERY WARM WELCOME DESPITE ALL THESE WHEN THEY VISIT THE PHILIPPINES FROM JULY 1ST AND SO ON......


CAPT WTF • 16 hours ago

This shows how much respect these people have for the indigenous/ American people here. they don't care , if it's time for them to go!!! they're going to stay, like it or not! jeezus!


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VoteRodeo CAPT WTF • 15 hours ago

Actually, they have a lot of respect for the American people in the CNMI. They value American traditions and the American Dream, and that's why they've continued to stay in the CNMI living and working legally, albeit as a second-class citizen with no say in what happens around them. Because they believe in the American system, and that it will someday do right by them. And these people participating in this upcoming rally are also participating in a time-honored American tradition, the right to protest and assembly as protected by the Constitution of the United States of America.

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newSheriffintown VoteRodeo • 13 hours ago

No there is one reason and one reason only. This reason is repeated time and time again in interview after interview. The inability to do this is given as the reason why they cannot leave. It is the ability to earn US dollars. That is the reason, let's just get it out there. Making US dollars to fund schooling back home, build houses back home, buy land back home, take care of extended family back home is the primary and only reason they come and refuse to leave. Call it for what it is but don't try to hide it by saying they just want to be a part of the island. If the goodies that are available in America were available somewhere else that is where they would be.....at least admit it and start from there. This emotionalism isn't garnering any sympathy.

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fan4life • 16 hours ago

you can rally all you want, even the documented cws in the mainland have been there for over 20 years but still haven't apply for permanent residents. get in line or have a heart to heart meeting with the local people here. only they have the power, not this selfish goverment and surely not the federal red tape. i am rooting for the cws, they don't deserve permanent status, they have, in my eyes earned it the hard way.