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Lawmaker says it will hurt economy

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, August 17, 2009) – THE U.S. Department of Homeland Security has adopted with finality the regulations governing the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program without including Russia and China, CNMI Congressman Gregorio C. Sablan said on Friday.

In an interview after his town hall meeting on Saipan, Sablan said the regulations are final despite the island governments’ continued lobbying to include Russian and Chinese tourists in the program.

"I think it’s wrong. The federalization law says it should encourage economic developments in the Northern Marianas. Now, it’s going to hurt us," he said.

Only two remaining regulations are being drafted — those that deal with the presence of foreign investors and foreign workers on the islands.

The federalization of local immigration starts on Nov. 28.

Beginning on that date, tourists from countries not included in the visa waiver program must secure a U.S. visa before they can visit the islands.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Russia and China cannot be included in the visa waiver program because of political, security and law enforcement concerns.

Sablan said he is not convinced that the implementation of the federalization law should be delayed.

He said he has been in constant communication with the office of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to ensure a smooth transition.

Napolitano already granted the CNMI’s request to delay from June 1 to Nov.28 the implementation of the law.

Another delay will require the enactment of a new federal law.

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