Marianas Variety

Last updateSat, 19 Jan 2019 12am







    Friday, January 18, 2019-1:54:47A.M.






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CW cap for FY 2019: 4,999

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced a reduction in the number of fiscal year 2019 CW permits to 4,999 from 9,999, but Rep. Angel Demapan said the cap will be increased once the NMI U.S. Workforce Act or S. 2325 becomes law.

U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan criticized the Trump administration’s decision to reduce the cap even though S.2325 is already moving in the U.S. Congress.

 “The Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act, introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski and myself, would reset the FY 2019 CW cap to 13,000, the same number we had in FY2017, and give our community certainty for 10 years,” Sablan said.

He added, “The Trump administration is taking a different approach, even though the U.S. Workforce Act, which was written by a bicameral and bipartisan working group, is moving forward in Congress.”

Sablan said the U.S. Workforce Act contains incentives to bring more U.S. workers into the labor force and significant protections for U.S. workers, policies the Trump administration should support.

But, he added, “those U.S. workers are now at risk of losing their jobs, because by cutting the CW workforce in half — from the FY2018 cap of 9,999 to 4,999 in FY2019 — the Trump administration will cause the Marianas economy to shrink.”

Sablan said “during the time the U.S. Workforce Act was under development and after introduction I have communicated with the secretary of Homeland Security, recommending that it would be pointless to harm the Marianas by cutting the 2019 cap to 4,999, when there was increasing likelihood the cap could be reset by law to 13,000.

“I regret that the decision was made to go ahead with what may be an entirely unnecessary cut. I appeal, once again, to the secretary, at least, to hold excess applications rather than rejecting them. This would avoid the immediate economic harm, and give Congress time to send the U.S. Workforce Act to the president for signature into law.”

For Demapan, however, USCIS was merely acting based on current law.

“Their announcement is just standard procedure — it’s something that they have to do absent any new law at this point. They have to move forward…but because S. 2325 is also making its way through the legislative process, we’re anticipating [that it will] pass within the next month. We will push hard for its passage and enactment, and if it becomes law during the six-month period of the CW renewal process, that would give us an opportunity to have USCIS adjust their policy based on the new and higher cap.”

He added, “Right now I know that it’s a big concern for businesses and their employees, but we just need to understand that this is part of the process. Until the NMI U.S. Workforce Act becomes law, USCIS has to operate based on the existing law.”

At this point, he said, “I don’t think there’s cause for panic because we are at the front-end of the six-month window for renewal applications and not necessarily at the front-end of the expiration dates so there’s still a little bit breathing room for us to continue to push forward legislation that would benefit the state of our economy and our workforce.”

Demapan said he still anticipates the current bill to move forward.

“With the arrival of the bill’s author, Sen. Murkowski, next week I think that’s a good indication that she’s here to feel the pulse of our economy and it will give us another opportunity to make her understand what really is happening on the ground here,” Demapan said.

The administration issued a statement, expressing hope for the passage of the U.S. Workforce Act.

“Gov. Ralph D.L.G. Torres has long asked that USCIS implement a system that can provide greater fairness to employers seeking a CW1 permit,” reads the statement from the governor’s office.

 “This request was in discussion during the 902 consultations and is a positive step forward to ensure all businesses are given a fair opportunity to compete for the limited available labor pool. He continues to maintain discussions with officials from USCIS to this day.”

The administration said Torres is proud of the work being done by leaders of the  private sector and small businesses toward hiring and training U.S. workers.

The governor encourages all employers to seek out and hire as many U.S. workers as they can.

“Still, we all understand that the CNMI needs more workers for our economy to maintain its viability,” reads the administration’s .

“The governor appreciates the hard work of Senator Murkowski, her committee, and her staff on the Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act and looks forward to its passage and the continuation of the CNMI’s growth and strength in the years to come as the provisions of her bill provide new and greater opportunities for our U.S. workers in our economy.”uscisSign01L