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February 22, 2019
Federal Immigration Policy on H-2B Visas from the Philippines Top Concern for the Governors of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
Source: The Guam Daily Post

On January 18, 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced eligible countries that will be allowed to utilize the H-2B visa program to work in the United States. The Department also announced which countries will be banned for a year from using this program, which includes the Philippines. Given the geographic proximity of the Philippines to Guam and the CNMI (3 hours flight), and the reliance by the two territories on labor from the country, especially for construction, the ban on foreign workers from the Philippines for their workforce capacity will have an adverse impact on their economies. Guam Governor Lou Leon Guerrero and CNMI Governor Ralph DLG Torres will both be in DC next week meeting at the National Governors Association and with U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials to discuss these and other important issues.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Announcement

Guam Chamber of Commerce:
H-2B Rule Change “Could be Catastrophic”

The Guam Chamber of Commerce fears the decision by the Department of Homeland Security to remove the Philippines from the list of countries eligible to take part in the H-2B visa program “could be catastrophic to our economic development.”

“The island's other professional needs such as healthcare and tourism could be additionally impacted by this new ruling by DHS and USCIS,” stated a release from the Chamber.

The release says that “current construction needs” on Guam demand skilled workers who are “not readily available” on island.

The Chamber also argues that because of “Guam's geographical distance from the continental United States,” there would be a “considerable increase” in construction costs if island contractors were forced to recruit “an all U.S. workforce” from the mainland.

Full Story

Interagency Group on Insular Areas to be held at
White House Next Monday

Source: U.S. Department of the Interior

The White House and U.S. Department of the Interior will be convening the Interagency Group on Insular Areas on February 25, 2019, at the White House Executive Office Building with Governors from the U.S. Territories and Federal Agencies. While the focus will be on disaster preparedness and Medicaid funding, priorities by the territorial Governors will also be discussed.

Interested in U.S. Congressional Hearings on the Territories?

  • U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to hold a hearing on the State of the U.S. Territories on February 26, 2019, at 10 am. in Room 366 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Testifying will be governors of Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. The hearing will be webcast live on the committee’s website at:
    https://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/live-webcast
  • U.S. House Natural Resources Committee to hold hearing on H.R. 560, the Northern Mariana Islands Residents Relief Act on February 27, 2019, at 10 am in Room 1324 of the Longworth House Office Building. CNMI Governor Ralph Torres will be testifying on this bill and other important immigration related concerns of the CNMI, including the ban on H-2B visas from the Philippines.

CNMI Governor Ralph Torres calls for 902 Consultations between the Commonwealth and the Northern Mariana Islands and the United States on Immigration Policy and the CNMI’s Economic Viability

Source: The Guam Daily Post

In his request to President Trump, CNMI Governor Ralph DLG Torres stated, “Formal Section 902 Consultations are the most important and unique line of communications made available between our two governments pursuant to the Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in Political Union with the United States of America. The matter we need to consider is the continuation of the CNMI’s continued access to the China tourist market, in a manner that is agreeable to the federal government and the survival of our economy. Today, China represents 39.86% of our overall tourism market and contributes an estimated 42.4% of the CNMI’s economy in our only exiting industry. Their presence is a major economic driver for our economy and an incredible public benefit to our community.”

To view the last report on 902 Consultations and learn more about the process and and the CNMI-United States relationship:

Previous 902 Consultations Report

Congresswoman Amata Coleman Radewagen Introduces Legislation to Streamline U.S. Citizenship Process
for U.S. Nationals

Source: Samoa News

The bill would make their citizenship choice much more convenient and accessible in three key ways: 1) American Samoans would no longer have to move off Island to become citizens, 2) U.S. Nationals would no longer have to take the citizenship test, and 3) A new hardship waiver of the cost of the application fee would be available.

Full Story

The legislation is of interest to U.S. Nationals living in American Samoa as well as those living in Hawaii and the Continental United States. During state elections last year, a U.S. National in Hawaii was disqualified from running for Hawaii’s House of Representatives because state laws require that an individual must be a U.S. citizen to run or vote in Hawaii’s elections.

Full Story

About PBDC

The Pacific Basin Development Council, established in 1980 by the governors of Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), and Hawaii, is a regional non-profit organization that advances economic and social development in the Pacific Islands. The organization, which is based in Hawaii, is located at the East-West Center.

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