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Ten-member team to lead implementation of new rules

By Agnes Donato

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, July 14, 2008) – A group of 10 federal officials is on island to begin discussions on the implementation of U.S. immigration rules in the Commonwealth.

The delegation, made up of representatives of various federal government agencies, arrived on Friday and will meet with local officials until Wednesday this week.

Gov. Benigno R. Fitial hosted a breakfast meeting with the visiting officials on Saturday. "I welcome our guests to the CNMI and I look forward to more discussions on how to best implement the new federal law for the CNMI's maximum economic benefit," the governor was quoted as saying in a statement released by the administration yesterday.

Fitial, who has announced plans to sue the U.S. government over the new immigration law, said he is determined to work with the visiting federal officials "to reach the best possible regulations under the new law."

"I agree with many in our Legislature about the need to engage in good faith negotiations concerning the implementation of this sweeping new law," said Fitial.

The visiting delegation is expected to meet with several government agencies under the Executive Branch, as well as Northern Marianas College, Commonwealth Ports Authority, Marianas Visitors Authority, and private sector representatives, such as the Saipan Chamber of Commerce and the Hotel Association of the Northern Marianas Islands.The Fitial administration said it will emphasize during these discussions important issues relating to the CNMI immigration system, including the visa waiver issue in relation to the CNMI visitor industry, as well as issues relating to foreign workers and foreign investment in the CNMI.

"The administration believes the U.S. Department of Homeland Security may have broad discretion under the law to develop and issue regulations in these areas and the meetings over the next few days are intended to present the facts and explore the issues that need to be addressed in shaping the regulations," the press statement said.

The governor said he is confident the meetings will be productive. He stressed the need to weigh the effect of any proposed regulations on the CNMI economy, which the administration described as "showing some signs of recovering from the current depression, given the increase in flights from Korea and Japan, and the recent uptick in tourist arrivals."

The visiting officials include the following: Igor Timofeyev, director of Immigration Policy and Special Adviser for Asylum and Refugee Affairs; Alex Hartman, policy adviser; Phil Busch, legislative counsel at the US Citizenship & Immigration Service; David Gulick, district director of the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service in Honolulu; Steve Sander, congressional liaison at the Office of Insular Affairs; Allen Joe, program manager at the Customs Border Protection's Office of Field Operations in San Francisco; Wayne Wills, special agent-in-charge at the Immigration & Customs Enforcement in Honolulu; Nancy Alcantar, field office director at the ICE Office of Detention and Removal Operations in San Francisco; Clarence Wagner, chief counsel at the ICE Office of the Principal Legal Advisor in Honolulu; and Paul McCloskey, associate legal adviser at the ICE Office of the Principal Legal Adviser

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