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Guam congresswoman fights ‘flawed’ policy

By Janela Buhain SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety,March 28, 2011) – China and Russia are still not on the list of countries eligible to participate in the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program as posted in the Federal Register in an interim final ruling.

This has caused concern from Sen. Tina Muna Barnes, Legislative Committee on Tourism chairwoman.

"Gas prices are rising, tourism numbers are falling and every day, people are working harder, earning less and paying more. With a nearly 30 percent drop in visitor arrivals from Japan expected in the short-term, our economy may soon force people out of work and into welfare," said Barnes. "A China-Russia visa waiver program is critical to our economy and it is the surest way to keep our economy strong."

Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo also focused on the issue in her congressional address Thursday.

She stated that while Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano exercised parole authority to continue to allow Chinese and Russian visitors into the CNMI visa-free because of a possibility that their economy would collapse otherwise, not having the same accommodations for Guam is not consistent with Congressional intent.

The passage of the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 into law was intended for Guam and the CNMI to have a joint visa waiver program.

However, Bordallo cited "flawed" implementation by the Bush administration that led to the interim-final ruling.

"Homeland Security’s role in this matter is to help execute congressional statute 110-229. I urge the governor of Guam and our Ccngresswoman to maintain our pursuit of a revised Homeland Security rule in its final form. As long as we know what is required of us, Guam can meet the challenges which have prevented this program’s implementation," said Barnes.

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