Senator Wants Workplace Issues Addressed with Improved Immigration Status

Senate President of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Arnold I Palacios, says that improving immigration status for long-time guest workers will help workplace issues in the region, even if this might be unpopular.

In an interview, Palacios said that his comments were about guest workers who have been in the CNMI longer than ten years – many who have children automatically granted US citizenship, yet are still only in possession of CW-1 permits. Palacios says the dearth of workers required by the recovering economy of the CNMI will not be helped by short-term solutions given that the cap on the 2018 fiscal year for CW US visas has already been reached, according to US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Improving the immigration status of long-term, qualified guest workers was one of the recommendations made by the CNMI 902 team and the former Obama administration to the US Congress. But the proposal is considered unlikely to gain the necessary US Congressional approval. The CMN1 902 team and the Obama White House also advised extending the federal CW program for another decade after 2019 and increasing the cap to 18,000 from the current limit of 12,998.

Bill H.R. 339 was introduced by US Congressman, Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, to increase the 2017 fiscal year’s CW cap to 15,000. Although passed in January by the House of Representatives, it is still pending in the US Senate.