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By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Sept. 6) – The August deadline for the revised version of S. 1634, the bill that will federalize the local immigration system, has been pushed back after the U.S. Interior Department asked the help of the U.S. Department of Security in drafting a new measure.

David Cohen, Interior’s deputy assistant secretary for insular affairs, hopes to submit the new draft of S. 1634 soon.

"We are still working with the Department of Homeland Security to finish up the draft," said Cohen in an e-mail interview. "We hope to be able to submit it soon."

Homeland Security will be among the five federal agencies to oversee the transition to a federal immigration system in the CNMI.

The department sent Philip B. Busch, one of its legal counsels, to Saipan to observe the Aug. 15 field hearing conducted by the U.S. House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs on H.R. 3079, the Northern Mariana Islands Immigration Security and Labor Act, which is similar to S.1634 but includes a provision for a CNMI nonvoting congressional delegate.

Busch is with the Office of the Chief Counsel of the department’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Cohen said once his office submits the second draft, the next step will be up to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

"Their next procedural step will be to report the bill out of the Senate committee and a similar process will be going on in the House," he said.

S. 1634 and H.R. 3079 both propose that foreign workers in the Northern Marianas who have been legally employed for at least five years be given the opportunity to get nonimmigrant visas which will entitle them to freely travel, work and study anywhere in the United States and its possessions.

Gov. Benigno R. Fitial is strongly opposed to both bills citing their "negative economic impact."

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