Obama’s immigration reform proposal has yet to factor in NMI legal workers
- By Alexie Villegas Zotomayor - [email protected] - Variety News Staff
THE recent push on Capitol Hill to address immigration concerns does not include the documented guest workers of the Northern Marianas.
On the heels of the current bipartisan support to fix the U.S. immigration system, there is no current mention of how the reform will fix the immigration system in place in the Northern Marianas.
Last Saturday, U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance in cooperation with radio station KWAW 100.3 FM facilitated a discussion of immigration issues with Filipino-American immigration expert attorney Ted Laguatan.
USPGG CNMI Chapter chairwoman Dr. Celia Lamkin and DJ RV Caberos moderated the discussion and received inquiries from KWAW 100.3 listeners.
Asked by Variety how the comprehensive immigration reform proposed by President Obama will benefit the guest workers in the Northern Marianas, Laguatan indicated that this remains to be seen.
Laguatan said whether the bill — which has not been introduced —will provide amnesty for undocumented workers and will provide an opportunity for documented workers to apply for an improved immigration status “we don’t know yet.”
As for amnesty extended to illegal immigrants, Laguatan said the last time it was enforced was in 1986.
Laguatan was referring to President Ronald Reagan’s 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act that guaranteed amnesty to 2.9 million illegal immigrants.
The Filipino-American immigration lawyer spoke of how the question over how the amnesty bill would affect the documented immigrants has often been raised. “How about those in the U.S. who are legally in status?”
The undocumented workers, he said, were able to apply for the amnesty program by citing evidence that they were illegally staying in the U.S.
But for those who came to the U.S. and remained in legal status, “The only way that they got around it was if there was evidence that they went out of status.”
They became illegal, he said.
He said that was how their applications for amnesty were accepted.
Laguatan says, absent evidence that they became illegal, legal immigrants failed to apply for the amnesty program which would have given them a status under the federal immigration system. “Absent evidence that they became illegal, their applications were not accepted.”
He said, “That was in 1986. We don’t know how they will address this issue in the new bill that is being introduced.”
In some other countries, Laguatan said, amnesty laws allowed both illegal and legal immigrants to apply for legalization.
“Whether this will be the same thing with the new bill being introduced, we don’t know yet,” added Laguatan.
The Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 extended most provisions of U.S. immigration law to the CNMI.
The transition period implementation of the U.S. immigration law began on Nov. 28, 2009 and will expire on Dec. 31, 2014 unless extended for another five years.
In the states, President Obama said he wants Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration law that will fix the “broken” system.
Previous attempts failed due to opposition from the Republican Party which controls the U.S. House of Representatives.