Thursday, March 02, 2017

Congressional delegation comes to Guam

Concerns with H-2B visas and other endorsement programs are not the major hurdles to fulfilling Guam's need for temporary labor, according to Ron Bishop, chairman of the House's Natural Resources Committee. Rather, these issues – which are felt throughout the nation – fall behind the larger purview of border security and it will be difficult moving forward on other topics until that matter is resolved.
"I've always thought (visa issues) are kind of like the low-hanging fruit which can easily be solved," Bishop told The Guam Daily Post.
"I don't see that as a major sticking point. ... If we can solve border security so American citizens can say it is a secure area, that eliminates a lot of the angst and anger and anxiety that's prohibiting us from moving forward on these other issues. Once that's overcome, then I think the (visa) issues can easily be settled."
Bishop was on island this week as part of a visiting congressional delegation from Washington, D.C. Members held a series of meetings with local lawmakers and military officials as part of the efforts to gain better understanding on local issues that fall before the committee on natural resources, which oversees general matters on insular affairs. 
Bishop said topics discussed included public land use, work force and military affairs but remained tight-lipped about the specific details of these communications. 
Issues such as Compact-impact reimbursements and the more recent concerns with a diminishing temporary labor workforce have been popular talking points for local public officials. The governor and several senators have been attempting to resolve these issues with federal authorities while Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo has made both Compact impact and the H-2B issue a primary focus of her office in the last year. Neither topic saw much progress with the prior administration. 
 'Conclusions ... still to come'
The visiting delegation is not the only the first for the year, but the first to fall under the newly minted administration of President Donald Trump, whose policy reform has already made sweeping impact through various executive orders. 
Like other topics, Bishop – a republican representative from Utah – did not directly address whether talks with local leaders dealt with resolving issues on Compact-impact reimbursements – which have been lacking for years. 
"We got a briefing on everything but as to conclusions, that's still to come," Bishop said.
"(Talks) were preliminary ... so I can't go into those. One of the things I want to do is have all different members hear about those issues ... Obviously if something is still ongoing, there has to be some road blocks along the way or some hurdle we have to overcome."
While different jurisdictions may find themselves contending with similar issues, perspective makes a difference in how these are resolved, and visits such as those that occurred this week help facilitate discussions to reach those resolutions, Bishop added. 
The delegation headed back to Washington, D.C. on Saturday.

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