Local lawyer weighs in on NMI workforce crisis

MANY local employers are unable or unwilling to transition their CW-1 workers to employment-based U.S. visas, such as the H-1B or even the EB-3, and this is the real workforce crisis facing the CNMI, local immigration lawyer Janet H. King said.

“Under [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services] regulations, to qualify for CW-1 status, the foreign worker must not be eligible for any other employment-based nonimmigrant status under U.S. immigration law,” she said. The solution to the current workforce crisis is to increase the number of workers under the CW-1 program and provide support to CNMI businesses to move into the employment-based non-immigrant H-1B visa, the employment-based immigrant EB-3 visa or the H-2B temporary work visa, King said. She said for many years, USCIS approved I-129 CW-1 petitions even though some of the foreign worker qualified for other U.S. visas. “For that terrible and avoidable oversight, USCIS should take full responsibility for the current crisis that the CNMI is currently facing,” she added. Since 2016, King said, CNMI employers are “coming face to face with the reality that they are unable to run their businesses or provide services, totally (because all of their employees are foreign workers with CW-1 statuses) or partly (because most or some of their employees have CW-1 statuses), because their CW-1 petitions to employ foreign workers were rejected.” King said when a CW-1 petition is rejected, although it is not a denial, the effect is the same: the foreign worker is no longer authorized to remain in the CNMI. King said USCIS must take the lead in advocating for the extension of the CW-1 program beyond Dec. 31, 2019, and for increasing the caps for FY 2019 (4,999) and FY 2020 (2,499). As for the CNMI government and the business community, she added, “we should be focusing on gathering and providing reliable data to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor pertaining to wage determinations so employers in the CNMI can have more trust and confidence that the U.S. Department of Labor has enough information about our economy and fair wages.” King’s final suggestion focuses on the EB-3 visa. Most of the CW-1 visa holders in the CNMI qualify for the EB-3 visa, she added. King urges USCIS to “provide an avenue to allow all foreign workers with pending EB-3 visa petitions to remain in the CNMI lawfully.” This, she said, can be done “by prioritizing the approval of CW-1 petitions or granting these foreign workers permission to stay and work in the CNMI in the form of ‘deferred action’ so long as they are physically present in the CNMI and can show that his or her employers are preparing to file or that they are on the waitlist for EB-3 visas.” She said “this will allow businesses to allow their foreign workers with pending U.S. visas to meaningfully transition away from the CW-1 program, and allow them work in the CNMI with employment authorization or EAD pending the approval (or denial) of their EB-3 visa.” King is admitted to practice law in Hawaii, Guam and the CNMI. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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