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CW-1 employers seek Philippine consulate’s help

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(PhilHonCon) — With the Sept. 30 deadline looming, employers of workers on CW-1 permits have asked the Philippine Honorary Consulate to the CNMI to appeal to the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

There are only 20 days left to file CW-1 petitions — the processing for which can take months. If no extension is granted, the affected workers will have to leave the island. Employers fear that this will result in a further disruption of their business operations that are already reeling from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

True picture

On Wednesday, 18 employers met with Philippine Honorary Consul Glicerio “Eli” Arago to discuss the filing period for CW-1 petitions. They said CWs should be allowed to legally remain in the CNMI while their petitions are being processed.

“I have to admit  that we are faced with an impending workforce crisis,” Arago said. “My meeting with several of our employers gave us a true picture of their struggles and challenges in meeting the federal immigration guidelines.”

He added, “Time is not on their side right now. They do not have any other remedy in sight…. [T]he only way is for our federal agency partners, USDOL and USCIS, to hear their plight and grant a reprieve by way of a time extension.”

The employers who met with Arago and his team represent over 300 workers who are CW-1 visa holders. The employers are engaged in various business operations, ranging from food and restaurants, manpower, finance, transportation, rentals,  printing operations and educational institutions.

They expressed concern about the delay in the response time, processing and other critical administrative requirements and procedures mandated by  USDOL and USCIS.

 

Philippine Honorary Consul to the CNMI Glicerio “Eli” Arago, seated, right, and his office’s legal consultant Ariel Mariano, standing center, meet on Wednesday with employers of CWs at the Minatchon Atdao Pavilion. PhilHonCon photo

They also noted that the prevailing wage determination issued by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification reflected Guam’s wage rates. The CNMI wage survey report remains uncertified.

They said the Covid-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the situation, limiting the government’s business operations. It resulted in considerable delays in processing the Temporary Employment Certification  and Form ETA-9142C with the OFLC,  the issuance of the Notice of Acceptance for the employers to start online posting of job vacancy announcement  with the CNMI Department of Labor,  as well as the final issuance of the Temporary Labor Certification or TLC after filing the Recruitment Report.

The employers said they have sent emails and made several telephone calls to USDOL-OFLC, but the significant processing delays are already beyond the employers’ control and will eventually affect the timely filing of immigration petitions with USCIS before the CW-1 status expiration date of Sept. 30, 2020.

The  affected foreign workers will have no valid status in the CNMI beginning Oct. 1.

Unprecedented crisis

On Thursday, Arago wrote separate letters to U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan and Gov. Ralph DLG Torres.

“At this time of unprecedented crisis, we seek your assistance to address these concerns with our federal agency partners,” Arago said in his letters.

He noted that the congressman and the governor have been  long-standing partners of the business community. “They have been with us over the years, supporting the backbone of our islands’ economic development: its workers.”

Lack of information

“There are hundreds if not over a thousand employers in the CNMI pleading for extension,” said employer Eden Guillo-Ordas. “We are praying for an extension in filing CW-1 petitions.”

She said there is a lack of information that will allow employers  to understand the process of renewal and other USDOL requirements/guidelines.

“We ended up repeating and restarting the process once we received a denial. For TLC alone, the process takes about five months,” she said.

There are also other employers who are hesitant to “re-do” the process because the prevailing wage determination was based on Guam’s.

“How we wished that the U.S. Labor Department will give us some consideration,” another employer said.

D’Elegance Enterprises Inc. representative Irene Santiago said her company is still waiting for an update of the recruitment report they submitted.

“Our company submitted it in July but up to now we have yet to hear a response. I am scared because Sept. 30 is almost here,” Santiago said.  “If it is not approved, the affected employees will have to leave the island.”

Le Queen Inc., which is engaged in manpower services, said it received a “denial” from  USDOL on Wednesday, company representative Rene Reyes said.

“Meaning, our workers are all in-danger of being sent home because of the last-minute denial and the USCIS application deadline of Sept. 30,” he added.

“We are appealing and praying for  USDOL and USCIS’ understanding. We hope they grant us our request for an extension. I hope with the help of Consul Arago, our appeal will be answered.”

 

 

 

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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