Governor: CW issue needs US congressional action

GOVERNOR Ralph D.L.G. Torres on Thursday reiterated the need for U.S. congressional action to address the CNMI’s lack of workers.

Last week, despite the pleas of the CNMI government and business community to reduce it by only one, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reduced the number of CW-1 permits for fiscal year 2018 by 3,000 — to 9,998 from 12,998.

Torres said he will continue to communicate with U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan “ make every effort to introduce” legislation in the U.S. Congress

“We can’t blame the Trump administration. Unless [current federal] law is changed then it will be down to zero,” he said, referring to the CW program which will end in Dec. 2019 unless extended by the U.S. Congress.

“I agree with Congressman Kilili that we need to put politics aside, and I hope he makes it happen,” the governor said. “I am not telling him what to do, but this is his job. Everything points to Congressman Kilili making those amendments [to federal law] happen.”

During a meeting with the governor and other CNMI officials on Wednesday, business leaders said they don’t want the CNMI to be another Puerto Rico, referring to that territory’s financial crisis.

Attorney Viola Alepuyo of Imperial Pacific International suggested a signature campaign to involve the community so the CNMI can have a “stronger voice” in Washington, D.C.

“We need the community to speak about how this [workforce] reduction is going to affect them,” she added.

Alex Sablan of Tan Holdings said that they will “lobby hard” in the nation’s capital.

“We need legislation that we all agree on — a bill that U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Congressman Kilili’s office can jointly submit,” said Alex Sablan who is also chairman of the Northern Marianas Business Alliance Corp. and the Strategic Economic Development Council’s CW and Labor Task Force.

He said the bill will be based on the 902 recommendations jointly submitted by the CNMI team headed by Governor Torres and the Obama White House to the U.S. Congress.

They include a proposal to increase the CW cap to 18,000 and extend the program for 10 years after 2019.

The Trump White House has endorsed these recommendations.

According to the governor, the commonwealth is not asking for a single cent from the U.S. Congress.

“All we’re asking is to be allowed to sustain our economic growth which the CNMI is experiencing for the first time in close to 20 years. Because of our economic recovery, we are able to pay our debts, give our retirees their pensions, pay land compensation among many other things,” the governor said.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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