Marianas Variety: Kilili: HR 559 passes Senate; parolees fate now with president

U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan’s legislation providing permanent status for as many as 1,039 individuals, living in the Marianas under humanitarian parole, passed the Senate on Thursday afternoon. The bill, H.R. 559, now goes to the White House for the President’s signature. If the President signs Sablan’s legislation before June 29, parolees, who have lived lawfully in the Marianas since 2009, will be able to continue to live and work in the islands. Otherwise, the parolees, including parents and spouses of U.S. citizens, will be forced to leave.

“As always, I am particularly grateful to Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, who guided my bill quickly through the Senate after we passed it in the House on June 6,” Congressman Sablan said. “She was instrumental in extending the immigration transition period in 2014 and, again, with my U.S. Workforce Act last year. She understands why the Marianas needs special consideration, when it comes to immigration issues; and she has been willing to use her political skills to help us.” Sablan also thanked Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Joe Manchin, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, and Hawai’i Senator Mazie Hirono for their role in passage of H.R. 559 in the Senate.

Sablan introduced the legislation on January 15, shortly after the Trump administration announced it was ending humanitarian parole for five groups of people in the Marianas. The Obama administration set up parole programs in 2009 and 2011. They covered persons who had been born in the Marianas, but were not covered by citizenship provisions of the Marianas Covenant of Political Union with the United States. Persons granted permanent resident status under Commonwealth law in the early 1980s were also covered by the Obama policy, as were certain in-home caregivers and immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.

“The Trump administration did not agree with use of executive authority to allow these long-term, legal residents to stay in the Marianas,” Sablan explains. “However, the Trump administration did agree that these 1,039 individuals should stay, if Congress provided a basis in law. The Trump administration drafted what became H.R. 559 and supported passage, when I held a hearing on the issue in February.” Sablan said, because of the Trump administration support, he is hopeful that the President will sign his Northern Mariana Islands Long-Term Legal Residents Relief Act, H.R. 559, before the June 29 deadline.

Gov. Ralph Torres testified at Sablan’s February hearing and agreed to permanent status in the Marianas for the parolees. Sablan thanked the Governor for his support. “I also want to thank my House colleagues Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva, Immigration Subcommittee Chair Zoe Lofgren, and cosponsors Rob Bishop and Van Taylor,” Sablan said. “No one can succeed in Congress without the help and goodwill of others. I am very grateful for the friendships I have developed over the last eleven years.”

Source: Marianas Variety