CNMI’S FITIAL TO TESTIFY AGAINST U.S. IMMIGRATION BILL - June 21, 2007]

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CNMI’S FITIAL TO TESTIFY AGAINST U.S. IMMIGRATION BILL

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, June 21) – Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Governor Benigno R. Fitial is scheduled to travel to Washington D.C. to testify against the federalization bill at the public hearing to be conducted by the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on June 28.

Press Secretary Charles P. Reyes Jr. told Variety yesterday morning that the governor, who hasn’t set foot in the nation’s capital since his inauguration in Jan. 2006, will travel with a "small delegation."

Reyes said the governor has also asked the U.S. Senate committee to reschedule S.1634’s hearing for July.

Reyes said they got the notice about the hearing on Tuesday, or four days after it was introduced in the U.S. Senate.

"We only became aware of the scheduled hearing (on Tuesday). The hearing was scheduled very quickly after the bill was introduced," Reyes said.

"The governor wants to attend this important hearing, but he prefers that the hearing be rescheduled to next month, so that he can travel to Asia to meet with investors, and so he can make only one trip to D.C. for the hearing, since he was planning to meet with Senator Akaka in July," he added.

Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hi., whom the governor met in May in Hawaii, is the main sponsor of S. 1634.

Allen Stayman, the committee’s senior staff member in-charge of insular issues, said Akaka was chosen to sponsor the bill since he has a long-standing involvement on issues about the islands.

"He visited the CNMI several years ago with then-Chairman Frank Murkowski and has co-sponsored several (similar) bills…including S.1275 in 1998, S.1052, which passed the U.S. Senate in 2000, and S.507, which was reported by the committee in 2001," said Stayman.

The Fitial administration was surprised that Akaka sponsored the bill since it described its initial talks with the senator as very "positive."

Stayman said U.S. lawmakers will welcome Fitial’s visit.

"It would be helpful if the governor suggests further refinements to the draft bill…with appropriate transition provisions and exemptions to meet the special circumstances of the CNMI," said Stayman.

[PIR editor’s note: According to PIR archives, the bill would mandate the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to "grant lawful nonimmigrant status to all eligible workers and their spouses and children."]

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