CNMI Governor Calls For Cooperation Among Leaders; Not Attacks

Torres meets Congressman Sablan to discuss pressing workforce issues

By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa 

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Nov. 1, 2016) – Governor Ralph Torres on Sunday said CNMI leaders should work together for the best interests of the people of the commonwealth and not attack one another.

Torres said attacking one another will not solve anything.

On Friday, the governor met with U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan to discuss pressing issues concerning the federal CW program and the islands’ workforce.

Earlier last week, Sablan lashed out at the CNMI Department of Labor for not requiring new investors to hire construction workers through the H2-B visa process.

Torres on Sunday said the CW program “is a federal issue, but we will continue to assist in providing data to determine what our next plan is. I have been working with him [Sablan] since day one in addressing this issue and we already have a unified position.”

Torres said he asked Sablan to propose some changes to the federal law to give the CNMI government some tools and leverage in the CW process.

Sablan has introduced legislation in the U.S. Congress to increase the CW cap from 12,998 to 18,000 and to extend the CW program until 2029. But he said he doesn’t expect Congress to act on the bill anytime soon.

As for his administration, Torres said they are finalizing their 902 talks report which will be submitted to President Obama in December.

“Everything is going on as planned,” the governor said. “We asked for an extension of the CW program and to increase the number, and we also asked the U.S. government to give us the resources that we need. They cannot just slap us with new regulations without giving us the proper tools. For example, there are federal grants for which we are not eligible, and I believe that should be changed to give us the opportunity to avail ourselves of those grants.”

He said they are now trying to determine how many guest workers are affected by the current cap which was reached this month — the first month of fiscal year 2017.

CNMI Department of Labor Secretary Edith Deleon Guerrero said she asked U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to provide her with data on how many guest workers are affected by the cap, how many are in the medical or health-related professions, how many are construction workers and other job classifications.

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