CNMI Lawmakers Meet With Long-Term Foreign Workers

Legislature awaits information from DC talks before forming unified position

By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa 

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, June 10, 2016) – Lawmakers on Thursday met with some of the long-time CW workers affected by the cap during a meeting in the House chamber.

Fourteen House members and two senators met with the workers who were with Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands chairwoman Gloria Cavanagh of Mariana Resort & Spa.

After hearing the workers’ concerns, the lawmakers said they were waiting for the outcome of the 902 talks between the governor’s team and President Obama’s representatives in Washington, D.C.

Mami Ikeda, a long-time CNMI resident, said her CW permit will expire in September and she will have to leave the island she considers home with a heavy heart.

Ikeda said she was in fourth grade when her family first arrived on island in the 1970s.

Her brother, another long-time CNMI resident, died of cancer in 2014.

Ikeda said she was hoping to hear some answers from CNMI lawmakers concerning her and other CW workers’ dilemma.

Concerned citizen Glen Hunter, who was also with the group, said long-time guest workers should be granted improved immigration status.

Hunter said CNMI lawmakers should come up with a unified position and recommendation soon.

“It’s important that we let the federal government know what we as a commonwealth want to happen on our soil. There are the 902 talks, but I don’t think they should overshadow what you want to say as a legislative body,” he told the lawmakers.

Rep. Ralph Yumul said they want to hear from the business community specific complaints so they can determine what action should be taken.

Rep. Glenn Maratita said it is time for the commonwealth to stand as one strong commonwealth and come up with a “strong position.”

Rep. Larry Deleon Guerrero said the CW crisis is also a humanitarian crisis.

But Rep. Antonio Sablan said it’s hard to accomplish something when others are going in a different direction.

He said there is a need to bring in all stakeholders and come up with a unified position.

Until they hear from the governor’s 902 panel, however, they cannot come out with something definite right now, he added.

Speaker Ralph Demapan said they will ask Rep. Angel Demapan and Senate Vice President Arnold Palacios, who are members of the 902 team, to update them on any developments.

“We want to know what alternatives we have to address these issues. Future discussion is forthcoming. It’s premature for us to come out with a recommendation until we hear from the 902 team,” the speaker said.

Meantime, “brainstorming on this matter will continue. It is something that the Legislature would like to discuss. If it’s leaning toward the direction of improved status — if that would be the best approach, we will look into it. Even restoring the U.S. Department of Labor’s discretionary powers in extending the cap — we are looking into that. There’s a lot of uncertainty in these issues, but it is a federal matter and what we can do is recommend. But it is a matter that requires U.S. congressional action.”

At the same time, Demapan urged the business community to train more local workers.

One of the guest workers who attended the meeting, Janet Hernando, said she has been on island for 25 years.

She said she is not after a green card, but would like to be allowed to stay and continue working here.

“This is my second home already. I wouldn’t stay here if I didn’t love Saipan. I’ve sacrificed a lot…. I and others like me who have been here for so long and who have no bad records and are paying taxes — we just want to be allowed to work here.”

Marianas Variety
Copyright © 2016 Marianas Variety. All Rights Reserved

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment