Washington D.C. – A momentous decision for the CNMI, Labor Secretary Tom Perez has notified Governor Eloy Inos and Congressman Greg ‘Kilili’ Sablan that he is extending for 5-years the CW Transitional Worker Program.
The decision was long in coming, too long for NMI foreign workers, their employers, and NMI officials.
But U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez finally notified Governor Inos and Congressman Sablan Tuesday, Washington time, that he’s decided to extend through 2019, the NMI-Only Transitional Worker Program.
HEAR Matt Kaye’s report HERE>>>5-29 perezgrantsnmicwext.mp3
At long last, Sablan and some 10-thousand NMI foreign workers fearful of being sent home at the end of this year, could breath a ‘sigh of relief.’
Sablan: “I have been lobbying for this decision for over a year, so I am relieved that the Secretary has finally made public his decision.”
Perez pointed out in his letter to Sablan and Inos that the 2008 NMI Federalization law states Congress’s intent was to minimize possible adverse economic effects of phasing out the CNMI’s nonresident contract worker program. And, to maximize the potential for future economic growth by assuring foreign workers are protected from possible “abuse and exploitation.”
Sablan fought for a smooth transition, and what he says will be the only extension.
Sablan “We need to eventually end this transition period. And when we are moving to all us workers. There’s no disagreement with the Secretary of Labor, there. That’s in the best interests of the Northern Marianas.”
Sablan insists the NMI is making progress, reducing the number of foreign workers from some 22-thousand foreign workers to 10-thousand, since enactment of the 2008 law.
But Secretary Perez wants to keep close tabs on NMI labor needs and has asked the NMI to provide yearly updates starting next April. That, to show “good faith efforts” to find and train U.S. citizens and permanent residents for jobs.
Three Sablan measures also require the NMI to better account for use of an annual $150-dollar fee employers pay for each non-U.S. worker to be used to train replacement U.S. workers. a House bill calls for GAO reporting to Congress every two-years on training effectiveness.
But Sablan says 5-more years is not a lot of time.
Sablan: “I do want to continue to urge our government to continue training our people, so that they could take over the work, presently being held by third country nationals, the foreign workers. And also, urge our businesses to start getting serious about giving jobs to U.S. workers”, especially now, with a resurgent NMI economy, and plans for new hotels.
Sablan will continue to press for his own CW Extension bills, despite Secretary Perez’s decision to grant another 5-years.
The Congressman’s bills would also extend the CW Program for foreign investors, continue an exemption for caps on ‘H’ Visas for the CNMI and Guam, and extend the ban on asylum claims in the NMI.
The House Natural Resources Committee will report out a House version this week.