Thursday, November 26, 2009

US gears up for CNMI takeover

US gears up for CNMI takeover

Friday, 27 November 2009 03:31 by Gemma Q. Casas | Variety News Staff

(SAIPAN)--An official of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said his office is ready to administer and operate the immigration system of the Northern Marianas, which will be placed under federal control starting tomorrow.

Edward Low, chief CBP officer, said some of the permanently assigned personnel for the Saipan international airport have arrived on island and more will come in the next few days.

Part of the contingent are armed CBP officers.

“CBP officers are armed. That is the function of their duty. That weapon is part of who they are,” said Low who arrived on Saipan on Friday. He is scheduled to leave on Dec. 4.

“We’re scheduled to take over immigration on Nov. 28. With any luck it would be relatively seamless,” he said in an interview on Monday.

According to its Web site, CBP is one of the most complex components of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with a priority mission of keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the country.

It is also responsible for securing and facilitating trade and travel while enforcing hundreds of U.S. regulations, including immigration and drug laws.

Local customs, however, will remain under the jurisdiction of the local government.

Low said CBP will enforce the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Act by screening passengers entering all points of entries in the CNMI.

“As it stands now, when CBP takes over immigration on the 28th, anybody who wants to enter the CNMI must have a U.S. passport, a U.S. permanent card or green card, a U.S. visa or they have to be a member of the visa-waiver country or Chinese or Russian nationals who are seeking to visit the CNMI. But those two countries will be dealt with a little bit differently. But you know I can’t speak about anything else,” he said.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, another agency of DHS, deals with people who have already entered the nation and its territories. It is expected to bring in a contingent as part of the federalization law’s implementation.

The USCIS is in-charge of collecting biometrics and processing the Commonwealth Worker or CW-1 status that will be offered to foreign workers on the islands who are otherwise ineligible for other U.S. employment-based programs.

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