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  • By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

1,039 parolees now qualify for CNMI-only permanent resident status

Foreigners living in the Northern Marianas under humanitarian parole may now heave a sigh of relief following President Donald Trump’s signing of a new law that saves them from deportation.

Introduced by CNMI Rep. Gregorio “Kilili” Sablan, H.R. 559 — also known as the Northern Mariana Islands Long-Term Legal Residents Relief Act — offers a CNMI-only permanent resident status to 1,039 parolees.

“I want to thank the President for signing my bill into law,” Sablan said. “This was the final step in a long, long process that began with introduction on Jan. 15.”

Trump signed the bill on Tuesday night. CNMI Gov. Ralph Torres said he received notification from the White House officials on Wednesday morning.

“I'm grateful that the President took the time to listen to our concerns in order to protect our economy and the many families who have called the Marianas home,” the governor said. “Our strong partnership over the years and his understanding of important issues facing the CNMI have led to meaningful federal policy victories to help our islands.”

Those who qualify for the CNMI-only permanent resident status include over 800 spouses and parents of U.S. citizens, 50 in-home caregivers, five persons born in the Marianas before the Covenant citizenship provisions went into effect, and persons who had been given permanent resident status under Commonwealth law in the early 1980s.

“So many people here in the House and the Senate, Democrats and Republicans have helped to get us here,” Sablan said. “People at the Department of Homeland Security and at the White House have helped. Commonwealth officials have supported us. I am so grateful to them all.”

The humanitarian parole policy went into effect during President Obama’s administration following the federal takeover of the CNMI immigration system. It was terminated on Dec. 31, 2018, but the federal government allowed a 180-day transition period, which ends on June 29.

The parolees, most of them from the Philippines and Federated States of Micronesia, would have been forced to pack up and fly back to their home countries had the bill not signed into law. It would have resulted in labor exodus that would exacerbate the CNMI’s workforce deficit.

“The goal has always been about keeping families together and growing our economy, and we are pleased that goal was accomplished today. Thank you to all of our private sector partners and community leaders for helping us achieve this goal today. This truly is another shared victory for the Marianas.”

“I thank President Trump for signing HR 559 into law. My office through our Washington Director Jason Osborne and I have been closely working with the White House for an expedient approval of the bill since Congress passed it a week ago,” Torres said.


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