CNMI Governor, Congressman Ask U.S. To 'Intesify' Review Of Foreign Worker Permits

Hoarding of Commonwealth-only worker permits hurting labor pool

By Emmanuel T. Erediano 

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, March 22, 2017) – Governor Ralph D.L.G. Torres and U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan have asked Department of Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly to “intensify” the review of all CNMI-only transitional worker permit applications to help the commonwealth address the “hoarding” of CW permits.

In an interview on Tuesday, Torres said he wanted to emphasize the importance of working together to address this concern before the CW cap is reached again.

In a joint letter to Kelly, the governor and Kilili said they expect that the same problem the CNMI had last year with regard to the CW cap will happen again next month.

The governor said he and Kilili are trying to work collaboratively with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to look into unused CW permits.

“We’re taking the opportunity to work collaboratively with USCIS because 5,000 [unused CW permits] are really important,” Torres said in an interview.

If not addressed, he said, this problem “will hamper our ability to complete our infrastructure.”

Torres and Kilili also informed Kelly about a “potentially exploitative scheme used by dishonest companies which could undermine the integrity of the Commonwealth-Only Transitional Worker Program and jeopardize our growing economy.”

They added, “The cap was reached for the first time in the life of the program seven months into FY 2016 and applications were closed. The cap was reached within the first two weeks of FY 2017. In both years, a number of employers were left without workers. Some businesses were forced to close. We expect a similar result in FY 2018.”

They said “part of the reason for reaching the permit cap, we have learned, is that certain manpower companies have applied on behalf of employees for whom there are no jobs. After the CW cap is reached, these companies then, approach, typically, a construction business and, for a price, offer to transfer the workers with CW permits to that business’s employment. Not all the permits issued to these manpower companies are successfully scalped, however. Some permits go unused. The result: legitimate companies that were crowded out of the CW application process are deprived of workers.”

Torres and Kilili said “this practice of speculative acquisition [is] contrary to the intent for which the CW program was created. And we expect this practice will continue, when U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reopens applications for FY 2018 next month.”

They said the CNMI government “is taking such steps as are available to it by virtue of local labor and business licensing laws. These steps include requiring construction and manpower companies to obtain certificates of good standing from or fill out local job vacancy announcements with the commonwealth’s Department of Labor.”

Moreover, to “reinforce the commonwealth’s efforts to end this abuse, we ask that USCIS intensify review of all CW applicants. The review could include a comparison of the number of CW permits issued to an applicant and the number of CW workers actually employed by that applicant in a given year. USCIS could verify that the work performed by CW permit holders and the location or work match the description listed in any applicant’s prior petitions. The agency could also require that the applicant submit a valid contract for the work at which the CW workers are to be employed or other evidence of legitimate need.”

Torres and Kilili told Kelly that the CNMI-only transitional worker program “remains vital to the economy of the NMI.”

“Although the number of U.S. workers has grown over the life of the CW program, the population of eligible U.S. workers in the islands remains insufficient to meet the demand for labor, and efforts to recruit U.S. workers from other parts of the nation have proven unsuccessful. It is equally vital, therefore, that we maintain the integrity of the CW program so that it can continue to help fill the labor needs of our economy.”

Marianas Variety
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Comments

If businesses paid a decent wage they would have plenty of US workers from other parts of the nation. No one is going to move here for $7/hr.

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