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US House passes Kilili immigration bill

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (Office of the CNMI Congressional Delegate) — The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation Wednesday that would grant permanent status in the Marianas to foreign investors originally admitted to the Commonwealth under local immigration law. The same status would be available to a small group of foreign workers, some of whom have been in the Marianas for 40 years, Sablan told the House during debate on his bill. The bill, H.R. 560, passed the House by voice vote under rules that require a two-thirds majority of support. The bill now goes to the U.S. Senate.
“I am very grateful to Chairman Raúl Grijalva and Ranking Member Rob Bishop, who both are cosponsors of H.R. 560. Bipartisan support was essential for passage in the House today and will be essential, as well, for passage in the Senate,” Congressman Sablan said after the House vote.
The Marianas congressman has been working since he first came into office in 2009 to make the transition from local to federal control of immigration in the Marianas as least difficult as possible. Federal law extending control had been enacted the year before.
In 2018, Sablan drafted and introduced the U.S. Workforce Act, which protects the rights of U.S. workers against unfair competition from foreign workers in the Marianas’ economy. President Trump signed the bill, which became Public Law 115-218.
Last year, President Trump signed Sablan’s Long-term Residents Relief Act, Public Law 116-24. That Act converts about 1,000 people living under administrative parole into residents with a permanent, legal status in the Marianas. Just last week, the Administration issued the necessary guidance to allow those 1,000 people to begin the application process.
H.R. 560 provides the same permanent status — in the Marianas only — that President Trump previously approved for the parolees.
This time two additional groups are covered. The first are investors who had been lawfully admitted to the Marianas under local law before federal immigration was extended there. They have been holding on with short-term visas ever since, never certain from year to year about their business investments.
The second group, long-term workers, was defined in the U.S. Workforce Act and designated in that law for special treatment to provide more certainty to their employers and help stabilize the economy.
As vice chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee responsible for insular issues, Sablan held a hearing on H.R. 560 in February 2019. Marianas Gov. Ralph Torres testified in favor of Sablan’s bill. The Trump administration witness, though not taking a position on the specifics, noted that “without a sustained labor force, projected investment in the CNMI likely will wither.”
“H.R. 560 should go a long way to maintaining an adequate number of workers in the Marianas economy,” Congressman Sablan said. “The workers covered are people their employers’ businesses have come to rely through years of service. They are people with skills that our economy needs.
“And the investors covered by my bill originally put their trust in the Marianas and in Marianas immigration law. They have held on now for over a decade and I think giving them permanent status will encourage them to invest even more, something our economy really needs right now.”

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