Administration still hopeful that Congress will OK workforce bill

THE Torres administration remains hopeful that the U.S. Congress will act on the NMI workforce bill which proposes to extend the federal CW program to Dec. 2029 and increase the CW cap to 13,000 before gradually reducing it each year.

On Wednesday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it will conduct a lottery for fiscal year 2019 CW applications. From a cap of 12,998 in FY 2017, USCIS reduced it to 9,998 in FY 2018 and to 4,999 in FY 2019.

 “We continue to remain hopeful that the bill we have in Congress — the NMI U.S. Workforce Act — will be passed swiftly to address the long-term concerns facing our economy and community,” Press Secretary Kevin Bautista said. “Progress has been made through the governor’s discussions with U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and other leaders on Capitol Hill to ensure that we have a bill that recognizes our concerns as a community and that local measures have been implemented to safeguard against bad actors in our economy.”

Bautista said Gov. Ralph Torres “has long asked USCIS to implement a system that can provide greater fairness to employers seeking a CW-1 permit so that businesses are given a fair opportunity. We’re pleased with the work for a long-term solution to this issue, but remain cognizant of the need to address individual concerns because those permits are more than just numbers. Those are families and friends who call these islands home, and this administration will advocate for them.”

Bautista said “we all understand that the CNMI needs workers for our economy to maintain its viability. We look forward to the bill’s passage and the continuation of the CNMI’s growth and strength in the years to come as the provisions of Senator Murkowski’s bill will provide new and greater opportunities for our U.S. workers in our economy.”

In a separate interview, independent gubernatorial candidate Juan N. Babauta said USCIS’ decision to conduct a lottery is “not fair.”

“If I am in a responsible position in the government now, I will be calling  Homeland Security and the Department of Labor and fight for a fair way to protect workers in the CNMI,” the former governor said.

A lottery, he added “can dilute the criticalness of the workforce that we need here in the CNMI.”

In a statement,  USCIS said it has received petitions for more than the number of visas available for fiscal year 2019 CW-1 program.

“As a result, USCIS will be conducting a lottery to ensure that it does not exceed the CW-1 cap. USCIS will randomly select petitions received between April 2, 2018 and April 13, 2018. If USCIS receives your petition after April 13, it will be rejected and will not be considered for this lottery.”

Source: Marianas Variety :

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