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Mar 12, 2009

"Facts and Finction About Federalization"

Facts and fiction about federalization


Saipan Tribune asked Marie Thérèse Sebrechts, the regional media manager for the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Michael Aytes, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services acting deputy director, to separate fact from fiction relating to the federalization of CNMI immigration:

Question: Many nonresident workers are hoping for an “organic” type of federalization this June, similar to what happened in Guam. Is this possible?

Sebrechts: When you talk about organic type of federalization of immigration and whether it's going to be like Guam, it's not. What happened here at the time of the Covenant when people got U.S. citizenship was the type of organic change. This time it's different. It's not the same thing at all as what happened in Guam. We already did that “organic” in the CNMI in 1986 when we allowed people who were born here to become U.S. citizens. We already did that and it's ongoing and hasn't changed.

Q: Foreign parents of U.S. citizen kids are convinced that they would be allowed to stay on island even if they don't have jobs.

Sebrechts: There are no specific provisions in the Immigration and Nationality Act and in the CNRA that grant alien parents of U.S. citizen children permission to remain in the United States solely because they have U.S. citizen children. Remember that minors cannot petition for their parents. For those non-U.S. citizen parents who are here because they are working, we have a transitional worker program for them. But there is one thing to remember: If someone is in a position where they can apply for status, they should do it, if they are eligible.

Q: Would foreign parents with U.S. citizen children be given humanitarian considerations and granted a status to remain here?

Aytes: We'll be looking at that on a case-by-case basis. We can't grant them permanent residence. U.S. Immigration law doesn't provide for that but we'll be looking at the age of their children, their circumstances, and [determine] the right answer for each person.

Q: How will federalization affect foreign students? There is a prevalent belief among foreign students that they will also benefit from federalization. Is this correct?

Sebrechts: No. All CNMI immigration categories will be recognized during the transition period for the validity of their current status. Eventually, as with all categories, students will fall under the INA and will apply for student visas to study in the United States. The first step will be for schools to get certified to enroll foreign students. This program is administered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. For cultural exchange students, we will have a visa for cultural exchange trips.

Q: Immediate relatives, IRs, believe that they will be granted a better immigration status come June 1, considering that they are either married or related to a U.S. citizen, a permanent resident, or a resident of Freely Associated States. Is this correct?

Sebrechts: No. This covers too many different situations. If someone is already eligible for U.S. immigration status due to marriage with a U.S. citizen, they can already begin the application process so that they have their status once the federalization of immigration begins. That will be the same option available to them once the transition period begins.
There seems to be misconception that people think that whenever transition begins, everybody will lose their status and that's not true. People will maintain the status that they have as they transition into a U.S. citizen status.

Q: A group of people has been asking for the waiver of green card fees for immediate relatives of U.S. and Freely Associated States citizens. Will you grant their request?

Aytes: We are a fee-based agency. .There are certain types of applications where we will allow the fee waived. The customer can come in, based on their circumstances, and ask that we waive the fee. We will know the facts and decide whether or not to waive the fee. As an agency, we probably don't collect the fees or waive the fees for about 20 percent of our [services]. Where we can, we try to be as flexible and understanding as we can. Decision will be made on a case-by-case basis, not based on a certain class or group of people.

Q: Do you have separate status for IRs?

Sebrechts: No. We won't have IRs as a separate status. Immediate relatives in the United States are petitioned only by immigrants.

Q: Will those foreign workers who leave the CNMI before June 1 be allowed to come in using their CNMI entry/work permit?

Aytes: U.S. law is a little different from the CNMI process. A person needs a visa to come to the CNMI after the transition date, even if they have a status here. Even if we give them status, after the transition date and they travel, they are going to need the appropriate visa to come back.

Q: Many people think they will be trapped here because of that. But should they feel trapped here?

Aytes: No. They won't be trapped here. There are processes for them to file application for us to be able to give them permission to go back and forth. Getting a visa abroad is not an unusual process. It's the same process we use in the mainland.

Q: Would you allow foreign workers who exit the CNMI before the transition period for emergency reasons to come back using a CNMI entry permit, because applying and granted US visa takes weeks?

Aytes: We'll look at emergencies. But the best thing folks can do is pay attention and plan so that if they re going to have to travel or think they may need to travel, their employer, for example, can start the petition process. .I would think employers should have a fair sense of their workers, which folks they are going to help through this process.

Q: How about the case of IRs who have a medical emergency? Can they leave and come back after their treatment?

Sebrechts: They could come to us and discuss the situation and we can maybe parole them. We will have categories that we can do temporarily for emergency cases.

Q: What are the chances of federalization being delayed by 180 more days, as requested by the local government and some businesses?

Sebrechts: USCIS is operating with the current plan for a June 1, 2009 initiation of the transition period. The Secretary of DHS is considering the option of a delay and we expect a final decision within the coming weeks.

Q: Would long-term foreign workers in the CNMI be granted “green cards” once the transition to federal immigration system begins?

Aytes: No, that's not true. We're applying U.S. immigration law. We can't craft new programs to give benefits to folks here under the old CNMI law. We will help them transition but they are not going to be able to get [permanent residence].Temporary workers will not get permanent residence simply because they worked here for a period of years.

Sebrechts: There is no automatic path [to green cards or U.S. citizenship]. Individuals with current valid CNMI worker status may be eligible for transitional worker status or regular worker categories under the INA.

Q: Workers who have lost their jobs have either gone underground or are pursuing other means to stay on the island at least until June 1 in the belief that federalization may provide them an avenue to continue staying in the CNMI or provide them a better immigration status. Is this correct?

Sebrechts: This is too general to answer. Individuals who have CNMI worker status will have an opportunity for “transitional worker” status. Individuals who are uncertain are invited to make an appointment with the USCIS Application Support Center to ask about their status.

However, there's no blanket thing that would make everybody eligible. Going underground is not a smart thing to do because as time goes on, people will start verifying workers under the U.S. immigration law and it would be harder to get a job.

Q: Most foreign workers, and even residents believe that the CNMI will not survive the sudden out-migration of workers that could result from federalization (due to the phase-out requirement of the law). They believe the federal government will not allow that to happen and so holds out hope that, despite prior statements, DHS and Interior will still find a way to accommodate the CNMI's alien workforce so it could continue having a working economy. Is this correct?

Sebrechts:The transition period has been designed specifically to allow the transition of legal workers and residents from valid CNMI status to U.S. Immigration status. As a result, during up to two years, valid CNMI status will be recognized, allowing employers time to file petitions for change of status to either transitional categories or other employment-based categories under the INA.

Q: Who will apply and pay for the transitional worker's visa?

Sebrechts: The employers.

Q: How much would it cost employers to petition their workers to have U.S. work visas and would you grant special rate to CNMI employers?

Aytes: I don't remember the exact fees. Our fees are not as cheap as folks would like them to be, especially employer petitions because of what the employers are asking to be able to hire someone who is not a native of the area instead of an American worker.


Anonymous said...

The two reporters who wrote up these questions should be commended for getting the facts out to the public. There's been too much BS already.

court jester said...

The two reporters failed to ask the most important question..."when will the status determination required by the law within 2 years be addressed?"

Everything else on this list is old news that everyone knows. The noni above laid it out exactly.

Why would anyone apologize to a lying racist bigot puppet like Cinta?

Ms. D. said...

Public Law 110-229, Title VII, Subdivision A requires a report to Congress by May 8, 2010 on the status of aliens in the CNMI. It does not require Congress to pass any new laws changing that status!

Any such change is likely to come only as part of a larger debate on the status of aliens nationwide, which in turn will depend on the economy and how many foreign workers will be needed in the U.S.

As Zaldy Dandan so eloquently explains in his editorials, one shouldn't hang around here desperately hoping for a status change -- especially if you have a U.S. citizen child. He can petition you from whereever in the world you happen to be, as long as he is 21, and earns enough money to at least petition you one at a time.

So move wherever in the world you can get your best job and best educate your kids.

Their education -- in fact, their salary -- is what will really matter when it comes time for them to petition you.

And guess what? The CNMI is not the best place to give your kids a good education for a high-paying U.S. job.

Most schools in the Philippines are better at that.

If you don't have a dual-citizen Philippine passport for your U.S.-born kids, get them now from the consulate. Mine have them.

It will help them finish high school and college in the Philippines with no problem before moving to the States to petition you.

Anonymous said...

a lot of people are going to be out of status come June 1st. I think the law is going to say that those here waiting for labor cases are not in legal status and will be deported.

I like how the article spelled out a lot of things in simple English. I know some of the liars, excuse me lawyers, around Saipan have been giving other types of advice. There is nothing to fear. If you have a status now, you will have status until it expires.

There is no right under US law for any immigration benefit, it is all based on a privilege. If that privilege is taken away, then tough luck.

For IRs, there is long standing case law that says that if you are eligible for AOS, you are still eligible for AOS even if you are out of status. What does this mean? If an IR is unable to file their AOS(green card) application before their legal stay expires then they can still file it later.

the scribe said...

Ms. D. - You said "And guess what? The CNMI is not the best place to give your kids a good education for a high-paying U.S. job.

Most schools in the Philippines are better at that".

I will agree this is not the best place but you can't be serious that PI is better unless your children are attending ISM...so this notion seems a bit disengenious.

Anonymous said...

the scribe, I was laughing as well when I read that from Ms. D. Unis in the Philippines are consistently ranked lower than the universities in many, many other Asian countries.

Translate: saipanmiddleroad.blogspot.com


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