U.S. Homeland Secretary Secretary Has Final Say On CNMI Visa-Waiver Program

Secretary Kelly asked to continue parole access for Chinese, Russian tourists

By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, April 11, 2017) – The secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, John Kelly, will decide whether the CNMI visa-waiver program for Chinese and Russian tourists will continue, according to Brian J. Humphrey, director of field operations of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

In an interview on Monday, he said the visa-waiver program will continue in the meantime.

“The final decision is up to the [DHS] secretary. The secretary has the authority to continue the parole. We have a new administration, and the new secretary has asked for information about the parole, including the numbers, and we have provided that information to the secretary. It’s for him to decide where he wants to go with the parole. Until then, we will continue with the parole as is and we are executing it on a case-by-case basis.”

Humphrey, Robert Havens, CBP Saipan port director, and Bruce Murley, CBP Hawaii area port director, met with CNMI lawmakers on Monday to discuss immigration issues and the long lines and wait-times experienced by tourists at the airport.

Humphrey said there are various factors contributing to the delay in processing newly arrived tourists, among which are incomplete documents or not filling them out in a timely manner.

But Humphrey said they are now addressing the problem by filling the vacancies for additional immigration officers, upgrading the processing system and by working with the airline companies.

“We are responsible for filling vacancies that we have, and that’s one part of the solution, and another part of the solution is working with the airlines to see if they can spread out their flights in such a way that they don’t stretch our resources too thin.... Another part of the solution is…to automate the process — that alone will save a significant amount of time.”

He added, “It’s a combination of modernizing the parole process and filling the vacancies, and working with the carriers on their scheduled arrivals and working with the carriers to educate their passengers to be better prepared and arrive with completed documents.”

Meeting with the governor

Humphrey also met with Gov. Ralph Torres on Monday morning to discuss the visa-waiver program.

CNMI officials said the program’s revocation would adversely affect the local tourism industry and the economy.

“We met with Governor Torres first thing this morning, assuring him that we will be working with him and [U.S.] Congressman Gregorio [Kilili Camacho] Sablan to make sure that we’ll have a better process and not lose what exists now. We need to modernize and automate. So he committed to us and we committed to him to make the parole work better for the CNMI,” Humphrey said.

During the meeting with lawmakers, Humphrey disclosed that there will be a U.S. immigration officer arriving on island in May and another will follow shortly to fill some vacancies.

He said they are also considering other applicants.

Based on their data, he said 1,032 Chinese “tourists” have overstayed in the CNMI purposely to obtain work here.

He said they are working closely with Homeland Security Investigations or HSI to track down illegal aliens.

“We have an agreement with them [HIS] that when we come cross individuals who have overstayed we will work with them [HSI] cooperatively to remove those who have illegally overstayed.”

Aliens found overstaying will be sent home immediately, he added.

Marianas Variety
Copyright © 2017 Marianas Variety. All Rights Reserved

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment