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Marianas Variety: Kilili talks about NMI issues with NMC students (October 6, 2016)

U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan was a guest speaker in the current issues class of Northern Marianas College instructor Guadalupe Robinson on Tuesday.

Kilili discussed congressional services that are available to students and his other constituents, and these include information about Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid benefits, immigration concerns and student aid, among other things.

He also talked about the ongoing activities and programs of his office.

In an interview, Kilili told Variety: “I used to do this more often, but I think it’s been a year since I came up here and was invited to speak. Personally I prefer the students to ask questions so that I don’t bore them with my own thoughts.”

He believes that talking with students and discussing how their U.S. congressional office works is a good way to report to them as well.

The NMC students asked him about airport facilities, CNMI water and sewer infrastructure, the 2nd Marianas Political Status Commission, reunification with Guam, the Guam governor’s declaring the FSM consul persona non grata, and the CW issue.

Kilili said H.R. 83, which was passed by the U.S. Congress in Dec. 2014, included language he proposed to extend the CW program from Dec. 2014 to Dec. 2019 and exempt Guam and the CNMI from the H-visa cap.

“We were expecting some construction projects that year. Construction workers that come to Guam are H-2B workers. They come to Guam and work and once the project is done they leave.

“Unfortunately for us here, China is not on the list of H-visa eligible countries.”

Right now, due to a major construction project on island, the CNMI will soon reach the CW cap which is currently 12,998.

“There’s a company here that has a major construction project and they decided they needed 5,000 constructions workers, so they went in and paid the application fees for 5,000 CW workers, and then the CNMI government gave them a waiver — that it’s okay you don’t need to meet the local 30 percent U.S. hire requirement, which is 1,500 workers, so now we’ve reached the CW cap,” Kilili said.

“If those construction workers were on H-2B visas we would not have this problem with the CW cap.”

Kilili said he is trying to do something about the CW cap. “I’m doing a temporary fix until I can get the larger fix in the next Congress.”

In July, he introduced H.R. 5888, legislation supported by the Torres administration and the local business community, to increase the CW cap to 18,000 and extend the CW program to Dec. 2029.

“But don’t forget that in this Congress we only have 14 session days left for the rest of the year,” Kilil said.

The CNMI government should realize that “we cannot just continue to accommodate one company at the expense of everybody else,” Kilili said.

CWs are for specific categories, including those in the service industry and healthcare, he added.

“Unfortunately there are investors who have a huge influence in our government and that is not to our benefit because there are nurses at [the Commonwealth Health Center] who are CW workers.”

He told NMC students that companies that have employed nonresident workers for more than 10 years can apply for EB-3 visas for these employees.

EB-3 “is an immigrant visa preference category for United States employment-based permanent residency. It is intended for skilled workers, professionals, and ‘other workers.’ ” The backlog, however, “is typically six to nine years, except for residents of India and China, for whom the backlog is even longer, sometimes more than 12 years.”

Asked about the prospect of the U.S. Congress approving short-term relief from the CW cap, Kilili said: “I hope that we can get it done, but we don’t have much time. We have about 14 session days until the year ends and then we adjourn in December. We don’t have too much time, but we are working closely with the people we need to work with, and I think we can get it done. It just depends on how accurate some of the information that was shared is. It is something that would probably take care of the short term, immediate need to raise the cap temporarily for a year, and in the next Congress we will work harder as early as possible on H.R. 5888.”

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