Longtime Worker In Saipan Fears Deportation

by Haidee Eugenio

SAIPAN, CNMI — Filipino Flordelino Apilado, 72, said yesterday he worries about being deported from the CNMI, which has been his home since April 28, 1976, until he was granted a CNMI permanent resident status in 1985. For 35 of the 37 years he’s been here, he worked in the construction industry.

“I am already old, worked for several years and got my CNMI permanent residency but now I am nervous that they will deport me,” he said.

Apilado is among the over 300 CNMI permanent residents and those born in the CNMI between Jan. 1, 1974, and Jan. 9, 1978, but whose statuses are not recognized by the federalization law.

Just like many others in the CNMI, Apilado is hoping that the federal government will recognize their status under CNMI law and not be subjected to deportation.

Apilado is among the thousands that Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan (Ind-MP) is trying to help with his H.R. 1466, which seeks to grant a CNMI-only resident status to four specific groups of people.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen to us after Nov. 27,” he added.

Some worker groups are trying to help those like Apilado by either pushing for the immediate passage of Sablan’s H.R. 1466 in Congress or asking the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to allow these four groups of individuals covered by H.R. 1466 to remain in the CNMI until such time that the bill is acted on.

The Coalition for the Recognition, Equality and Advancement of American Minorities, or CREAM, the Unity Group of Foreign Workers, the Dekada Movement and the Marianas Advocates for Humanitarian Affairs Ltd. and their supporters are among those supporting H.R. 1466.

Besides supporting the bill, three of these groups also want Sablan to consider adding a fifth group that will be covered-those who have been legally in the CNMI for at least five years as of May 2008.

Malou Berueco, a worker advocate, said yesterday that they want to meet with Sablan when he comes back here to show their support for H.R. 1466 and if possible, add one more group to be covered by his bill.

The CREAM leadership also reiterated yesterday that these groups of people, including the CNMI permanent residents and those born in 1974-1978, need help for them to be able to continue their stay in the CNMI beyond Nov. 27.

USCIS outreach sessions

Worker groups and their supporters plan to meet with Sablan and USCIS to address the plight of these individuals who are both not covered in the final Commonwealth-only worker rule and the federalization law itself.

The USCIS will start today its outreach sessions to provide an overview of the CW rule and other immigration classifications available under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

The outreach sessions will last until Sept. 29.

Today, from 2pm to 4pm, a USCIS team will hold an outreach session for employers at the American Memorial Park’s indoor auditorium in Garapan.

At 6pm, the USCIS team will be meeting with the Filipino community and the Philippine Consulate General.

The public sessions, meanwhile, will begin on Wednesday, at 5pm, also at the American Memorial Park’s indoor auditorium.

Questions pile up

The Saipan Chamber of Commerce, the largest business organization in the CNMI with some 150 members, will have a session with the USCIS outreach team on Wednesday, 1pm, at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe.

As of yesterday afternoon, Chamber members listed at least 33 questions for the USCIS team. But additional questions are expected to be asked that day.

Among the Chamber members’ 33 questions are, “will CW-1 visa holders be paid federal minimum wage, prevailing wage rates, or current CNMI minimum wage levels as defined in federal law?” and “Is there a minimum hours worked per week requirement in order to obtain the CW-1 visa for employees?”

“Is it an ‘acceptable activity’ to be currently engaged in recruiting domestic workers for future use as service employees in a maid service company without paying them while they are in a holding pattern waiting for future employment opportunities?” and “Who is responsible for paying the CW-1 application fees? When are payments to be made?” are also among them.

Chamber members also want to know who is responsible for medical services/costs under the CW rule.

“If an application for H-1B visa is submitted by October 7, but is not issued by November 28th, will the employee be allowed to work? Some employers were waiting until the CW-1 rule was issued before submitting,” another one goes.

Another set of questions deals with the status of CNMI permanent residents. “Can they stay on island without the threat of removal? If they leave the island for any reason, can they return?”

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