27 Oct 2017
- By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa – [email protected] – Variety News Staff
PRESS Secretary Kevin Bautista on Thursday said the governor was informed in early October that due to the language of H.R. 339 and the “rhetoric regarding outdated unemployment figures from the congressional office,” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services proposed a substantial reduction in the CW permits for fiscal year 2018.
The FY 2017 cap was 12,998. Under federal law, it must be reduced in FY 2018 which started on Oct. 1, 2017.
H.R. 339, which became law in August, increases the number of the CNMI’s CW slots by 350 in FY 2017, but bars their use for new construction workers.
Bautista said Gov. Ralph Torres spoke directly with the White House through the deputy chief of staff of the president and the White House Intergovernmental Affairs Office to request their assistance on behalf of the CNMI.
“During the governor’s trip to D.C., he met with the Department of the Interior-Office of Insular Affairs, the White House and USCIS to underscore the economic harm a dramatic reduction would bring to the CNMI economy in this timeframe, as well as the many efforts done by the local government and the private sector to recruit, hire and train U.S. workers. The governor continues to pursue all avenues to advocate on behalf of the CNMI people on this issue.”
Bautista said the Trump administration “is looking at the CNMI’s position” so it can base policy “on accurate and up-to-date information about our economy and the needs of the CNMI.”
The Trump administration’s efforts are “appreciated and, in the longer term, beneficial for the continuation of our economic growth and providing opportunities to our citizens,” Bautista said.
“The governor is thankful for the response and time given to him by the Trump administration to hear our needs, and he appreciates the attention our concerns have received from President Trump and his senior staff. The governor is hopeful that our message of economic prosperity and our efforts to address concerns brought by differing parties will allow our progress to continue. However, he also recognizes that the law states that the CW program ends in 2019 without congressional action to extend it beyond that point.”
Bautista said “the goal of the administration continues to be the development of the local capacity within our workforce to meet the needs of our economy and the mandates of U.S P.L. 110-229 [the federalization law] while simultaneously advocating for the CNMI by ensuring our federal partners in Washington, D.C. understand that our economic growth and job opportunities for U.S. workers relies on the access and presence of foreign workers in this current timeframe. We look forward to providing more updates as discussions continue.”
In a separate statement on Thursday, U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan said:
“My position is that the 2018 cap should go down by one — just one — to 12,997.
“That would be the safest decision for the Northern Marianas economy right now.
“I will not speculate on why the Trump administration has not yet made a decision on the fiscal year 2018 CW cap. But I do know that the delay is harmful to our businesses and to workers who are waiting for the decision and to find out whether they will get the 2018 CW permits they have applied for.”
Gloria Cavanagh, president of the Hotel Association of Northern Mariana Islands, in an email said a massive reduction of the workforce would devastate the economy of the commonwealth.
“The FY ‘18 cap has not been announced. A nominal reduction of one would allow us status quo in our economy without the massive growth that we would expect with a larger labor pool. Rumors of reductions up to 3,000 have been heard. This would be devastating to our economy. Such a reduction would not allow us to sustain the growth that we have been experiencing over the last couple of years. I believe that such a reduction would cause our economy to shrink,” she said.
“This dilemma is causing delays in expansions and improvements. An unfavorable decrease can very easily cause cancellations of expansions,” Cavanagh added.
Velma Palacios, president of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, said the business group has requested that the number will not be reduced significantly.
Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/99643-trump-administration-looking-into-cw-issue