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SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, July 10) – For the first time since he became governor in 2006, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Governor Benigno R. Fitial will finally visit the nation’s capital to testify against a U.S. Senate bill that will federalize the islands’ immigration system.

Press Secretary Charles P. Reyes Jr. said the governor is leaving for Washington, D.C. ahead of the scheduled July 19 U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing for S. 1634.

As of press time, Reyes said the information he received was that the governor would be leaving late last night or today.

Finance Secretary Eloy Inos and Attorney General Matthew Gregory or one of the assistant AGs will join the governor.

The governor’s special legal adviser, Howard P. Willens, is already in the nation’s capital.

Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, introduced the 14-page S. 1634, or the Northern Mariana Islands Covenant Implementation Act, on June 15.

Among the administration’s concerns about the bill is its provision granting a non-immigrant status to nearly 8,000 foreign workers in the CNMI who have been lawfully employed for at least five years.

This would allow them to freely travel, study and work anywhere in the U.S. and its possessions just like citizens of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.

[PIR editor’s note: According to PIR archives, the CNMI administration worries that this bill would create economic uncertainty for the Mariana Islands. A significant issue considering the overall economic conditions on the islands today.]

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