Joint 902 Report From CNMI, White House Submitted To U.S. Congress

House, Senate urged to act on recommendations including resolution of guest worker issue

By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Jan. 19, 2017) – Representative Angel Demapan, a member of the CNMI 902 team, is hoping that the U.S. Congress will review the report submitted by the commonwealth and the White House and consider the concerns and recommendations they raised.

Among the recommendations in the report are the extension of the CW program beyond 2109, an increase in the CW cap from 12,998 to 18,000, and permanent status for long-term guest workers — all require U.S. congressional approval.

“The issues raised during the many hours we spent in consultation with the federal government are incredibly significant to the both the economy and livelihood of all residents of the CNMI,” Demapan said. “I am honored to have been a part of this historic endeavor and I’m grateful that this effort has provided us with a real opportunity to speak for our people with those at the highest levels of the federal government and be heard.”

He added, “It is certainly our hope that the U.S. Congress will take the time to review the report and consider the concerns and recommendations raised. The challenges we face as an island community often get overshadowed by the policies of mainland America. We hope that through the 902 report, the needs of our commonwealth will be better understood and addressed in Washington, D.C.”

The Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands, for its part, said 2016 had been tough for businesses in the CNMI with the exhaustion of the CW-1 caps for fiscal years 2016 and 2017.

HANMI president Gloria Cavanagh in an email to Variety on Wednesday said “it’s obvious that the current system does not work in a growing economy, especially one that the commonwealth is now experiencing.”

She added, “I endorse and support the decision of the administration to ask for both an increase of the cap as well as a permanent status for those guest workers that have called the CNMI home over the past decades. I have to remain optimistic that the new U.S. Congress will consider the administration’s recommendations.”

Cavanagh said she believes “that with a Republican U.S. Congress and with our newly elected President Donald Trump, the aura of D.C. will be pro-business. Business that will help strengthen the United States of America. I hope and pray that the new U.S. Congress will see that these recommendations are the only way for the CNMI to continue its growth and become more self- sufficient. I am glad that our U.S. congressman, Gregorio Killili Camacho Sablan, has been working together with the administration to promote our unified concern. The decision of the people to keep Congressman Sablan in office is the right one as his seniority should help our cause. He has many friends that are willing to help us in D.C.”

In a separate statement, Saipan Chamber of Commerce president Velma Palacios said:

“We are grateful for the work Governor Torres and [Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs] has done during these 902 consultations. The chamber supports Governor Torres and the 902 team’s recommendations as provided in the report. We will continue to support the Torres administration and Congressman Kilili Sablan’s efforts in addressing our CW program both in the immediate and long terms. Businesses continue to be affected by the CW program. Businesses require a sufficient workforce to sustain our growing economy. It is vital that all organizations work with the administration and Congressman Kilili to move this forward.”

The 902 consultation report was prepared by Gov. Ralph Torres, the head of the CNMI team, and Interior Assistant Secretary Esther P. Kia’aina, the president’s special representative to the 902 talks, following eight months of discussions focused on federal immigration and labor policy in the Northern Marianas and proposed U.S. military activity in the islands.

In a statement, Congressman Kilili said:

“I want to congratulate Governor Torres and Assistant Secretary Kia’aina for bringing these consultations to a successful conclusion with the release of today’s report.

“The recommendations they have made and the policy justifications the report puts forward will certainly be an important addition to the discussions that we are having here in Congress regarding immigration and labor issues in the Marianas.”

Among the report’s immigration recommendations are proposals to extend the Commonwealth-only Transitional Worker program into the future and to allow 18,000 foreign workers to be in the Northern Marianas. The report also supports considering extending the existing immigration policy to Guam to address that island’s workforce challenges.

“With respect to proposed military activity in the Marianas, the report calls for the establishment of a CNMI/Department of Defense Coordinating Council so that leaders can find common ground to enable the U.S. military to move forward, while preserving the Marianas way of life.”

Congressman Sablan has previously acknowledged that permitting use of public land in the Northern Marianas by the military is within the purview of the commonwealth government.

“It has been an honor to represent the United States in this process,” said U.S. special representative Esther Kia’aina. “This joint report reflects the strength of the U.S.-CNMI relationship and will provide federal policymakers in the executive branch and the Congress with a roadmap on how best to address important issues that have a tremendous impact on the economy and overall well-being of the CNMI people.”

Governor Torres, for his part, said: “It was truly an honor to work alongside my federal government counterpart, Assistant Secretary Esther Kia’aina, in this significant endeavor for the people of the CNMI. I thank President Barack Obama for allowing the CNMI an opportunity to voice our concerns and have those concerns be incorporated into the report’s final recommendations. This is an important and historic event in our relationship with the federal government and is one that will continue to provide for greater understanding of the critical issues facing the CNMI going forward.”

According to the Interior Department, since the Covenant was fully implemented in 1986, several 902 consultations have been initiated. This is the first known round of 902 consultations to result in a report to the president that has been transmitted to Congress.

For a full copy of the report, go to https://www.doi.gov/sites/doi.gov/files/uploads/902-consultations-report-january-2017.pdf.

Marianas Variety
Copyright © 2017 Marianas Variety. All Rights Reserved

Rate this article: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Add new comment