Washington D.C. – The Department of Homeland Security [DHS] has reassured CNMI Congressman “Kilili” Sablan that guest workers and long-term residents in the Commonwealth will be treated humanely, if DHS does not issue formal regulations on their status by the November Immigration-Transition deadline.
The conversation in Saipan used to be, ‘When will DHS finally issue regulations for transitional workers?’
Then it turned to, “There’s only a few months left before the November 28th transition date, when NMI umbrella permits expire.”
Now, the talk among those involved in Washington seems to have taken a new turn to ‘‘what happens if there are no regulations, or a new law, to protect those who will lose status in November?”
Congressman Sablan’s office says Kilili very recently received assurances from mid-level DHS officials that, without regulations, DHS will treat those without status, “humanely.” They will not be summarily deported.
But when you’re dealing with a Federal Agency, Sablan’s office says such assurances may not offer much protection to those affected.
Sablan has introduced Legislation to prevent Homeland Security from deporting CNMI permanent residents, others not granted citizenship in the seventies, and immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.
“Many individuals in the Marianas cannot convert to that green card status, because of several reasons,” said Sablan, “one, they can’t, many of them can’t meet the income threshold.”
Sablan is proposing to give Homeland Security’s Secretary discretion to consider, on a case by case basis, an adjustment to the income-threshold.
Sablan appealed earlier to Insular Affairs Chair John Fleming and full Committee Chair Doc Hastings to hold a hearing on DHS implementation of the NMI Federalization law.
But so far, no date’s been set for that meeting, which Sablan is hoping would be a forum for his bill.
Meantime, there’s no sign of the DHS transitional worker regulation, nor one on the CNMI-Guam Visa Waiver, also subject to unilateral action by the DHS Secretary in the absence of any regulation.
Sablan’s office compares it to being out on a ship, with no sign of land in sight—you don’t know when you’ll see land.
So the question now for thousands of workers and others in the NMI legally until late November, may no longer be, “when,” but “if?”