Guam – The CNMI’s Congressman stepped up the pressure on Labor Secretary Tom Perez to announce a decision on extending the Commonwealth-only Worker transition period.
Greg ‘Kilili’ Sablan held back little – and did all the talking, almost lecturing Secretary Perez at an Education and the Workforce Hearing – on the cost to NMI workers and businesses of taking so long to make a decision the CW Transition Program set to expire the end of the year.
Sablan said, “There’s a humanitarian concern as well. Waiting until the last-minute, leaves 9-thousand-617 foreign workers hanging in the breeze. Many of these people have lived in the Northern Marianas for decades have families and homes, there. If they have to be gone by the end of this year, we owe them the courtesy, Mr. Secretary, of letting them know, as soon as possible.”
HEAR Matt Kaye’s report HERE>>>3-31 sablan perez.mp3
Sablan was blunt. He told Perez workers would need to look for work elsewhere, sell their belongings and move their families–“their kids,” he said. Local business would suffer as jobs and consumers left.
Then, the Congressman took ‘direct aim’ at Perez and his department saying, “but for 14-months, your department has been unable, or unwilling, sir, to make a decision. Now, Mr. Secretary, I know the Northern Marianas does not have an admirable history, when it comes to foreign workers. Mr. Miller will tell you that, himself but it is possible your department does not trust the Northern Marianas will replace foreign workers with us workers—that we’re just buying time.”
A charge Kilili may not have made publicly ’till now, exposing his frustration and suspicion there may be more to the department’s earlier claim, it needs ‘til the statutory July 4th deadline to complete a thorough review of the NMI labor market.
And then, this admonition from Sablan, “but i remind you, sir…the number of foreign workers permitted is not the decision of the Northern Marianas government. The Department of Homeland Security sets that number…and the law requires fewer and fewer, each year. For this year, homeland security set the number at 14-thousand. That’s a long way from zero.”
Strongly suggesting homeland security expected the CW Transition program to be extended, Sablan added that his office has “reached out” to the Labor Department for help and advice on how to train U.S. workers. then, a heartfelt appeal. Sablan said, “we really want your help…we want to complete the transition that Public Law 110-s. 229 requires but we need to do it in a way that keeps our economy whole, and does not put the jobs of us workers in that economy at risk. That uncertainty, in the absence of your decision, is not helping. So, I hope you will take my words to heart, Mr. Secretary. I’m not asking my question, sir…I’m just making a statement, hoping that you would hear us out and make the decision, soon.”
Sablan met later in the day, one-on-one, with Secretary Perez to continue the discussion hoping to further convince Perez that time is running out and the NMI needs to finally know, what the verdict is on the CW Transition Program.