MEMBERS of the Bangladesh Muslim Community are suffering too, Muhammad Rafiqul Hassan said.
Typhoons Soudelor and Yutu, which battered Saipan in 2015 and 2018, affected everyone, including workers on CW-1 permit, but many were not eligible to receive any assistance from the CNMI government or the Federal Emergency Management Authority, said Hassan, speaking on behalf of the BMC.
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic that has shut down the tourism industry since last year, Hassan said CWs are, again, not eligible for many federal relief programs.
“We are asking the Office of the Governor, and the Office of the CNMI Delegate to the U.S. Congress to help all lawful residents of the CNMI, including CWs, who are losing jobs and income because of this pandemic.”
He added, “Like other human beings legally residing and working on island and are affected by the same pandemic, we also need help and assistance.”
Hassan said most of the BMC members applied for the third Pandemic Unemployment Program.
“We still don’t know if we will get or not,” he added.
He said the BMC members are also hoping for the passage of U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan’s bill, H.R. 560, which proposes to grant CNMI permanent status to certain Commonwealth-only Transitional Workers or CWs and to foreign investors, who were originally admitted under Commonwealth immigration law.
“Long-term workers and other CWs in the CNMI have worked shoulder to shoulder with the local community in developing the islands,” Hassan said. “Some of the workers have been here for more than 20 years. The CNMI is a second home to these workers many of whom have also invested their money in local businesses. We really need Congressman Kilili’s help.”
Hassan added, “Many workers are losing status because of the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services rule that the workers need to “exit” and go back to their home country and apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy. But if no visas are issued they cannot come back.”
According to Hassan, most of them do not seek U.S. permanent residency or U.S. citizenship.
“We’re just hoping for a simpler but permanent status that allows us to go back and forth to our families back home and continue to work here,” Hassan added.
Hassan also said that they learned that CNMI and Guam do allow asylum petition.
He noted that CWs arrived here legally and went through a federally mandated process overseen by federal authorities.
But because of the “exit” rule, they may lose their status, he said. Meanwhile, at the U.S. border, some migrants who have no legal papers can claim they are seeking asylum and are being allowed to enter the U.S. and stay there, he said.