CNMI Governor Calls For Unity Over Immigration Reform

admin's picture

Inos concerned over opposition voiced by House officials

By Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Nov. 13, 2013) – Gov. Eloy S. Inos reiterated yesterday his support for a CNMI provision in pending U.S. immigration reform bills that provide a pathway to improved status for long-term legal aliens in the Commonwealth. At the same time, he said that some House members’ decision to oppose the provision is "not a good sign" at a time when the islands should have "one voice."

The governor is also concerned about the impact on a related issue, wherein the CNMI requests an extension of the CW program beyond Dec. 31, 2014, so that the islands will continue to have access to some 12,000 skilled and professional foreign workers.

Inos said he only became aware of a resolution against improved status for long-term legal aliens in the CNMI on Monday.

That was the day a story was published about the House Committee on Foreign and Federal Relations’ decision—after an almost six-hour meeting on Friday—to support and recommend House adoption of Rep. Felicidad Ogumoro’s (R-Saipan) House Resolution 18-34.

Ogumoro’s resolution requests U.S. Congress to "hold indefinitely" any action on a section in S. 744 and similar legislation "which will allow thousands of alien workers, their families, and persons of other ethnic origin or race who are in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to become U.S. permanent residents and subsequently become U.S. citizens."

The committee members recommending full House adoption of H.R. 18-34 are committee chair Rep. Trenton Conner (Ind-Saipan), Ogumoro, Reps. Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan), Ralph Yumul (Ind-Saipan), Antonio Agulto (Ind-Saipan), John Paul Sablan (Cov-Saipan), and Christopher Leon Guerrero (Cov-Saipan).

The House could act on Ogumoro’s resolution on Rota this Friday.

From the start, Inos has supported the general idea of a pathway to improved status for legal long-term aliens in the CNMI.

"I have to take a look at the language. I think that just goes contrary to what our congressman has been doing back in D.C., and it just goes totally against the so-called one-voice situation. I wasn’t aware of this resolution until yesterday so I haven’t seen the language, but it certainly not a good sign," Inos said in an interview yesterday at the signing of an executive order merging two agencies.

Inos said the issue is a "very divisive" one, "and I don’t think we should bring it to that level; it just complicates things, in my view."

Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP), who worked to ensure a CNMI-specific provision is included in S. 744 and H.R. 15, said there is a much bigger issue the Commonwealth has to contend with if Section 2109 is not inserted in S. 744, for example.

Without Sablan’s provision, "anyone who’s been here as of December 2011, who has no felony conviction, who has no three misdemeanor charges, would be eligible to a path [to citizenship]."

Sablan’s provision allows legal aliens who have been in the CNMI since at least 2003 to "apply" for permanent residency or "green card" five years after the immigration reform bill is signed into law.

Both S. 744 and H.R. 15 provide a pathway to U.S. citizenship to some 11 million undocumented aliens in America.

Inos and Sablan had been discussing the CNMI-specific provision in these bills.

"This is not a good time to talk about that because…what’s going to happen to the [CW] extension? These things pretty much go hand in hand," the governor added.

Conner earlier told Saipan Tribune that the committee feels that the U.S. is "unilaterally imposing something on the CNMI."

CNMI immigration is now under federal control.

Conner said the committee would like Covenant 902 negotiations to happen, for example, between the CNMI and the United States before any legislation providing a pathway to citizenship for aliens in the CNMI.

Sablan, in a separate interview, reiterated that the issue of immigration "was settled in 1975 when the people approved the Covenant."

"If the federal government is infringing upon Northern Marianas sovereignty, with immigration, then why don’t take Public Law 110-229 to court? Former governor [Benigno] Fitial thought about this, he tried, and then backed off because he knew he couldn’t do that," Sablan said.

Conner said the committee thinks it is confusing that U.S. Public Law 110-229 provides a phase out of the alien worker population by Dec. 31, 2014, "and then they turned around and put in S. 744 a provision granting status to them. So what do they want?"

But the CNMI-specific provision does not have an automatic grant of status as some CNMI lawmakers claim. Instead, S. 744 and H.R. 15 only allow affected aliens to "apply" for improved status.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment