Immigration transition extended for five years

Immigration transition extended for five years

Washington, DC. — US Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez has extended the immigration transition period in the Northern Mariana Islands for another five years. The Secretary’s decision means the phase-out of the current foreign
worker program in the Islands will end in 2019 rather than mid year means phase-out has already cut the number of non-U S. workers in the Northern Marianas from 22,417 fiscal year 2011 at the start of the transition period to 10,017 in 2013.

Secretary Perez made the announcement in letters to Northern Marianas Govemor Eloy S. Inos and Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan today. Both officials have been actively lobbying for the five year extension, which IS allowed by the 2008 law that brought the Northern Marianas into the federal immigration system. That law required the Secretary to make a decision on whether or not to extend by this July 4. The Governor and the Congressman, however, had urged for a decision as early as last year to minimize uncertainties for businesses and workers and to avoid stalling economic growth

“I think that Secretary Perez has now made the correct decision and I thank him,” said Congressman Sablan.

“Obviously, this was not an easy decision for the Secretary. It took more time than I wanted.”

“But now we have to look forward. We have to use this extra five years to build the economic recovery in our islands and redouble efforts to replace foreign workers with U.S. workers.”

Economic recovery and worker training were clearly on Perez’s mind, as well. In his letter, he justified the decision saying it would “enable CNMI’s legitimate businesses to meet their current and near-term future”.  At the same tine, he asked the Commonwealth to provide yearly starting in April 2015, “documenting your good faith efforts to locate,
educate, train, or otherwise prepare U.S. citizens and other lawful permanent residents for jobs.”

The Secretary’s request mirrors language contained in Congressman Sablan’s legislation, H.R  2200, and its Senate counterpart, S. 1237.  Both bills require the Commonwealth to be more accountable for the use of an annual $150 fee paid by employers for each non-U.S. transitional worker they hire. The funds are required to be used for training replacement U.S. workers.

In fiscal year 2013 the Commonwealth received $1 .4 million in fees, which it distributed to local education Institutions.

HR. 2200 and S. 1237 call for the Commonwealth to provide a plan of use for these training funds before the fees are handed over by U.S. immigration authorities. The plan must include a projection of the how many U.S.
workers be employed as a result of the spending.