Monday, November 02, 2009

Hundreds attend federalization forum

Hundreds attend federalization forum

Re-entry to NMI tops concerns of alien workers

Monday, November 02, 2009

By Ferdie de la Torre

Hundreds of alien workers of different nationalities showed up at a public forum on the Department of Homeland Security's interim final rule on the CNMI transitional worker program, held Friday night at the American Memorial Park.

Janna Evans, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services community outreach regional lead, kicked off the forum with a PowerPoint presentation on the interim final rule. David G. Gulik, district director of the USCIS for Hawaii, Guam and the CNMI, answered questions from the audience.

After the forum, Evans and Gulik responded to individual queries, as many workers milled around them on the stage, asking more questions and sharing their personal experiences and problems in obtaining U.S. visas, among other issues.

Majority of concerns raised is the difficulty of getting visas from U.S. embassies or consulates in their home countries and questions about re-entering the CNMI using a B1 or B2 visa (tourist visa). Evans noted that the issue was asked six times in six different ways.

“If you have a CNMI umbrella permit and B1/B2 visa and you leave and you go somewhere-anywhere, any country in the world-and you want to come back to the CNMI to resume your life and your work, you must have a valid visa,” Evans said.

A B1 or B2 visa, she said, does not allow the holder to work.

Evans said if the alien worker knows that he or she is going to leave the CNMI, he or she needs to work with the employer to get a CW1 status (CNMI-only transitional worker).

“If you know you're not going to leave for two years, no problem,” Evans said, adding that the CNMI-issued two-year “umbrella permits” will cover them.

She stressed that it is very important for alien workers who have a CW1 visa and want to leave the CNMI to get a CW1 visa from the U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate in their respective countries so that they can return and work in the CNMI.

“The B1/B2 [visa] will not put you in lawful status to work,” Evans said.

Gulik explained to workers that visas are issued only outside the U.S.

“A visa is not a status. A visa is a permit to allow you to come to the U.S.,” Gulik said.

Even if a CWI status is already given to a worker in the CNMI, it is not a guarantee that the U.S. embassy in the worker's country will issue a CW1 visa in order for him or her to come back to work, he added.

“We hope that the State Department will give a lot of faith to the fact that we gave you a CW1,” Gulik said.

If a worker uses a B1/B2 visa to come back to the CNMI to resume his or her work, the worker will be violating the law because he or she is entering as a tourist, he said.

“When you come back to the CNMI, you should show what are you are going to do here. We don't want you to be in trouble,” he said.

Rabby Syed, president of the United Workers Movement Inc., said the forum was very informative and educational as people had lots of questions.

Just like in other forums about the interim final rule, the main concern was about the workers going to their country of origin and the need to have a U.S. visa in coming back, Syed said.

“And that is very hard [to get],” Syed said.

He said DHS should come up with some sort of remedy.

“Maybe they can issue a visa from here based on that CW1 so that the workers can easily go to their country for a short vacation and come back,” he said.

Syed said their group would be holding a meeting to discuss the interim final rule.

Fil Taga president Mike Cruz said that, although the forum was informative, there are still a lot of areas that need further discussion, particularly on the question of Immediate Relative status and the B1/B2 visa.

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