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Fitial fights liberalization of immigration status

By Haidee V. Eugenio SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, May 18, 2010) - Two senators and two members of the House of Representatives will be joining Gov. Benigno R. Fitial in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday to testify before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Insular Areas, Oceans, and Wildlife on the implementation of a law that placed the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) immigration under federal control.

Senate President Paul A. Manglona (R-Rota) and Senate Vice President Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian), who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Federal Relations and Independent Agencies, left during the weekend, along with Fitial who left Saipan on Sunday.

Rep. Frederick P. Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan), who is also a member of Fitial's working group on the U.S. Department of the Interior report, and House Minority Leader Diego T. Benavente (R-Saipan) will also be in Washington, D.C.

Benavente left much earlier for Boise, Idaho, for family matters, but will go to Washington, D.C. for the oversight hearing.

While the oversight hearing is on the proposed visa waiver program for Chinese and Russian tourists, Fitial and the lawmakers will be delivering the message that the CNMI government is opposed to the Interior report recommending long-term status for alien workers who have been legally residing in the CNMI for at least five years.

[PIR editor’s note: A previous story in the Saipan Tribune quoted press secretary Angel Demapan saying that "it almost appears as if there were ulterior motives behind the advanced submission of the Interior’s recommendations". See previous story.]

The governor and the lawmakers said that Interior did not consult with the governor on the report and recommendation prior to its submission to the U.S. Congress, as required by U.S. Public Law 110-229 or the federalization law.

The four lawmakers will be presenting House Joint Resolution 17-4, HS1 which the House and Senate adopted recently. The resolution "strongly opposes" Interior's report recommending granting permanent immigration status to long-term foreign workers in the CNMI.

It also asks Congress to "direct" Interior to "consult" with Fitial as mandated by PL 110-229.

Guam Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo, chair of the Subcommittee, also invited the Department of Homeland Security, Interior, and the Government Accountability Office to testify at the hearing.

Press secretary Angel Demapan said yesterday that other than the hearing, Fitial "does not have any other scheduled meetings in the nation's capital."

The hearing will be held 5am Wednesday, Saipan time, or Tuesday afternoon in Washington, D.C.

The hearing comes after Sunday's massive motorcade and peaceful assembly of nonresident workers, their families and supporters on Saipan, showing their strong support for the Interior report.

The foreign workers also asked Congress to immediately act on the Interior report, granting improved immigration status to thousands of long-term foreign workers in the CNMI.

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