U.S. Congressional Delegation Asked To Give CNMI An 'Opportunity For Growth'

Labor and immigration issues top agenda

By Jon Perez 

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Feb. 23, 2017) – The CNMI’s labor and immigration issues are once again at the forefront with the visit of a congressional delegation headed by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-1st Utah).

The delegation, more commonly known as a CODEL, arrived in the CNMI yesterday and its first order of business was a wreath-laying ceremony at the American Memorial Park’s Court of Honor.

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres joined Bishop and the rest of the delegation—Reps. Glenn Thompson (R-5th Pennsylvania) and Bruce Westerman (R-4th Arkansas), and Delegates Amata Radewagan (R-American Samoa), Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (D-MP), Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-Guam), and Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R-Puerto Rico)—at the wreath-laying ceremony.

It was Sablan who invited Bishop and the rest of the delegation to visit the CNMI.

Torres, in his initial meeting with the CODEL, informed them of the CNMI’s current situation regarding the CNMI-Only Transitional Nonimmigrant Worker (CW1) visa program and the China visa waiver program. The meeting is similar to what transpired in Washington, D.C.

“Their visit is very important in magnitude since they saw first-hand the work being done here, especially for chairman Bishop. It gave him the chance to see some answers on the questions they asked when we met them in [Washington], D.C. They saw the constant work being done with the integrated resort,” said Torres.

Bishop chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources and its subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation. His committee handles discussions and legislations involving the U.S. insular areas like the CNMI.

Torres said he informed Bishop and the entire CODEL that the changes they are asking for in regards to labor and immigration would give the CNMI’s economy the chance to further improve. “Again, we’re emphasizing that we’re not asking for them to bail us out. We’re just asking them to give us the opportunity for growth.”

“Our economy has never grown like this. The economic growth that we’re seeing is a big improvement in the last 20 to 30 years. We’ve experience an 89-percent growth in revenue and the people are in a better economic situation now. We can see more vehicles now on the road with people complaining about congestion and traffic.”

Torres again thanked Sablan for inviting Bishop and the entire CODEL. “They are impressed with our island and our structures. Good thing the weather cooperated but there was a little bit of rain. They enjoyed Saipan in their short stay.”

Torres also brought up the China visa waiver program and its importance to the CNMI’s tourism industry. The administration of President Donald Trump had been tough on immigration and had a brief spat with China when he received a congratulatory call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing Wen.

China continues its claim that Taiwan is one of its provinces, but the latter had reiterated its independence.

“We also emphasized our concerns on the China visa waiver and its importance. That is why we’re putting all our efforts to inform them of these issues, how critical it is for us to maintain the China visa waiver [program], not just for tourism but also for business,” said Torres.

The CODEL arrived on Saipan at 2pm yesterday. Aside from the wreath-laying, the group also offered a bouquet at the World War II memorial to pay their respect to civilians who died in one of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific.

They would fly to Tinian today and will be welcomed by Mayor Joey Patrick San Nicolas to also check the historical sites and the areas the U.S military plans to use for its activities. The group then flies to Rota in the afternoon and from there would go to Guam before returning to the mainland. The CODEL had also been to Hawaii and American Samoa.

Saipan Tribune
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