Thursday, October 22, 2009

Visa waivers approved, temporarily

The Pacific Daily News is reporting that a CNMI-only visa waiver for Chinese and Russian tourists will be approved after Nov. 28 "on a case-by-case basis".*

It might only be a breather, because the "parole" will only be available "During the period from Nov. 28, 2009 (the transition program effective date), until the date of publication of the final Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program (VWP) rule (or other date that the Secretary of Homeland Security may determine)."

Still, it's good news in the short term, and maybe we can separate the coming of federal immigration control from the coming election.

That's a pretty vain hope. Several politicians have said they are going to raise issues with Customs and Border Patrol officials who are here for an operational visit. Operational is the key word here; they're not policy makers. Here's the list printed by the Saipan Tribune:
The visiting federal officials are led by CBP Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Field Operations Thomas S. Winkowski, and CBP Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Information Technology Charles Armstrong.

Also visiting are David Morrell, executive director of the Office of Field Operations' Mission Support; Cheryl Peters, program manager of the Office of Field Operations; Richard Vigna, director of Field Operations in San Francisco; Bruce Murley, area port director in Honolulu, Hawaii; and Rocky Miner, port director in Guam.

Later in the day...
Pacific News Center has a short blurb, indifferently written, on the officials' visit to Guam:
The speaker (Judi Wonpat) says that the federalization of CNMI's immigration will require them to use some of Guam's US customs agents however it will be on a part time basis and shouldn't affect any of Guam's operations.

The speaker adds that they did not have an answer as to the viability of extending the visa-waiver program to China and Russia. They did however reassure the Speaker that they would be on track to implament the CNMI's federalization on Nov. 28th.

PNC has also reprinted a Press Release (indifferently written) from Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo's office saying that the hearing on H.R. 3770 has been posponed until a later date. That bill proposes a one-year delay in implementing the Guam-CNMI visa waiver.

Last, but certainly not least, PNC has the (decently written) reaction from Congressman Gregorio C. Sablan:
"I’ve been assured that all the necessary equipment to do the pre-screening and monitor visitor exits will be in place by November 28,” said Kilili. “I have been very concerned about the Department’s operational readiness, but I’m beginning to see some forward motion."

* I'm glad I stopped by Unheard No More this morning. I missed the PDN headline when I picked up the local papers this morning. The Department of Interior's announcement doesn't appear on their website yet; I'll try to link to it soon, particularly when PDN's pay-per-view time limit kicks in.

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