Friday, February 08, 2008

Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor: Incorrect
CNMI Editorials
Friday February 8, 2008

I AM writing on behalf of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to correct the conclusion in Howard Willen’s article “The Plain Meaning of H.R. 3079,” that appeared in the Marianas Variety on Feb. 5.

Mr. Willens incorrectly states, “There is nothing in either the language of H.R. 3079 or its legislative history that refers to two separate guest worker programs during the transition period.” In fact, the language of proposed Section 6(d)(2) of the Covenant included in Section 103(a) of H.R. 3079, states that the Secretary of Homeland Security shall establish a new Commonwealth Only Transitional Worker program for nonimmigrant workers, “who would not otherwise be eligible for admission under the Immigration and Nationality Act…” In other words, there will be a second, separate program to provide for the entry of nonimmigrant workers who will not be eligible to enter the CNMI under the existing federal nonimmigrant worker program, the so-called “H-visa” programs.

Mr. Willens is also incorrect that the legislative history does not refer to two programs because, in fact, the legislative history is not complete. The committee has not yet filed a report on its recommendation that the Senate pass H.R. 3079. That report will further clarify the existence of these two nonimmigrant guest worker programs, and that while the Commonwealth Only Transitional program will eventually be phased-out, the nonimmigrant worker program under the INA will continue indefinitely, along with all of the provisions of the U.S. immigration laws.

It is important to emphasize that the goal of H.R. 3079 is to extend U.S. immigration laws, but do so in a way that is sensitive to the special conditions in the CNMI. In general, this means that the CNMI can take advantage of all of the provisions in the U.S. immigration laws, but that the CNMI can also take advantage of the several CNMI-only provisions included in H.R. 3079.

It is unfortunate that instead of working with the U.S. government to extend U.S. immigration laws as agreed to over 30 years ago, there are those who misrepresent and misinterpret the U.S. government position in an effort to further delay reforms that are vital to the CNMI’s future.


Communications Director
U.S. Senate Energy
& Natural Resources

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