[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 106 (Tuesday, June 3, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 31988-31990]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-12607]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Labor


Secretary of Labor Extends the Transition Period of the 
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands--Only Transitional Worker 
Program

AGENCY: Office of the Assistant Secretary for Labor, Department of 
Labor.

ACTION: Notice of an extension of the transition period.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (CNRA) extended 
U.S. immigration laws to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana 
Islands (CNMI), and authorized the Department of Homeland Security 
(DHS) to create the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker (CW-1) program to 
ensure adequate employment in the CNMI until the program is phased out 
on December 31, 2014. The CNRA also requires the Secretary of Labor, in 
consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Secretary of 
Defense, the Secretary of the Interior, and the Governor of the CNMI, 
to determine by July 4, 2014, whether an extension of up to five years 
of the CW-1 program is necessary to ensure an adequate number of 
workers will be available for legitimate businesses in the CNMI. Based 
on the factors set out in the CNRA, the Secretary of Labor has made the 
determination to extend the CW-1 program for five years.

DATES: This Notice is effective June 3, 2014.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For further information, contact James 
Moore, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Office of the Assistant 
Secretary for Policy, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue 
NW., Room S-2312, Washington, DC 20210; Telephone (202) 693-5959.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 702(a) of the Consolidated Natural 
Resources Act of 2008 (CNRA), Public Law 110-229, 122 Stat. 754 (May 8, 
2008), extends the immigration laws of the United States to the 
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). 48 U.S.C. 
1806(a)(1). To minimize the potential adverse economic effects of 
phasing out the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker (CW-1 for principal 
workers and CW-2 for spouses and minor children) program, the CNRA 
provides for a five-year transition period ending on December 31, 2014. 
48 U.S.C. 1806(a)(2). However, the CNRA authorizes the Secretary of 
Labor to extend the transitional worker program for up to five years 
based on the labor needs of the CNMI to ensure that an adequate number 
of workers are available for legitimate businesses. 48 U.S.C. 
1806(d)(5). Nonimmigrant worker visa programs under the Immigration and 
Nationality Act are not adequate substitutes for the CW-1 program 
because the jobs that CNMI businesses fill with CW-1 workers are not 
temporary or seasonal in nature and thus cannot be filled by H-2B 
temporary non-agricultural workers; are not in a specialty occupation 
suitable for H-1B temporary workers; and do not otherwise fit under one 
of the other nonimmigrant programs (such as the H-2A program for 
temporary agricultural workers, the O program for individuals of 
extraordinary ability, the P program for artists and athletes, or the R 
program for religious workers, etc.).
    The CNRA requires the Secretary of Labor, in consultation with the 
Secretary of Homeland Security, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary 
of the Interior, and the Governor of the CNMI, to ascertain the current 
and anticipated labor needs of the CNMI before making a determination. 
48 U.S.C. 1806(d)(5)(A). The Secretary of Labor's decision to extend 
the CNMI-Only Transition Worker program must be made 180 days prior to 
the expiration of the transition period, id., which is by July 4, 2014.
    The CNRA stipulates that in making the determination of whether 
foreign workers are necessary to ensure an adequate number of workers 
in the CNMI, the Secretary of Labor may consider several factors. 48 
U.S.C. 1806(d)(5)(C). The Secretary may consider: (1) government, 
industry, or independent workforce studies reporting on the need, or 
lack thereof,

[[Page 31989]]

for alien workers in the Commonwealth's businesses; (2) the 
unemployment rate of U.S. citizen workers residing in the Commonwealth; 
(3) the unemployment rate of aliens in the Commonwealth who have been 
lawfully admitted for permanent residence; (4) the number of unemployed 
alien workers in the Commonwealth; (5) any good faith efforts to 
locate, educate, train, or otherwise prepare U.S. citizen residents, 
lawful permanent residents, and unemployed alien workers already within 
the Commonwealth, to assume those jobs; (6) any available evidence 
tending to show that U.S. citizen residents, lawful permanent 
residents, and unemployed alien workers already in the Commonwealth are 
not willing to accept jobs of the type offered; (7) the extent to which 
admittance of alien workers will affect the compensation, benefits, and 
living standards of existing workers within those industries and other 
industries authorized to employ alien workers; and (8) the prior use, 
if any, of alien workers to fill those jobs, and whether the industry 
requires alien workers to fill those jobs. Id.
    Regarding the first factor, the Department of Labor (the 
Department) reviewed and considered workforce studies that examined the 
economic impact of alien workers on the CNMI economy and labor 
market.\1\ A review of the workforce studies found that the majority of 
the CNMI's current labor supply is provided by foreign workers. The 
studies unanimously concluded that restrictions on the foreign labor 
supply will exacerbate the CNMI's current economic problems and 
restrain economic growth.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ These studies include U.S. Department of the Interior, 
``Economic Impact of Federal Laws on the Commonwealth of the 
Northern Mariana Islands,'' 2008; U.S. Department of the Interior, 
``Report on the Alien Worker Population in the Commonwealth of the 
Northern Mariana Islands,'' 2010; U.S. Government Accountability 
Office, ``Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands: Managing 
Potential Economic Impact of Applying U.S. Immigration Law Requires 
Coordinated Federal Decisions and Additional Data,'' GAO-08-791, 
Aug. 2008; and U.S. Department of Homeland Security, ``Regulatory 
Assessment for the Final Rule, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana 
Islands Transitional Worker Classification,'' 2011.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Department conducted a labor force analysis to determine the 
unemployment rates of the populations identified in factors two through 
four. According to the 2010 Island Areas Census, which contains the 
most recent labor market data, the CNMI population was 53,883, with 
24,168 U.S. citizens and 29,715 non-citizens. The total number of U.S. 
citizens age 16 and over was 13,016. The Department's calculation, 
using the 2010 Island Areas Census, found that 24 percent of U.S. 
workers \2\ residing in the CNMI were unemployed. Regarding factors 
three and four, due to the lack of data, the Department was not able to 
measure the unemployment rate of workers who have been lawfully 
admitted for permanent residence or the number of unemployed foreign 
workers in the CNMI. Based on the CNMI Department of Finance tax data 
for 2002-2012 and the 2010 Island Areas Census, the Department 
concluded that there are an insufficient number of U.S. workers in the 
CNMI to fill all of the jobs held by foreign workers. The total number 
of unemployed U.S. workers in the CNMI in 2010 amounted to only about 
20 percent of the 14,958 foreign workers. Even if all the U.S. workers 
in the labor force were employed, more than 11,000 jobs would still 
need to be filled by foreign workers.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \2\ In this document, the term ``U.S. workers'' includes lawful 
permanent residents and the term ``foreign workers'' does not.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In regard to the fifth factor, we consulted with CNMI government 
officials and other stakeholders, to obtain information related to 
training, education, and other assistance provided to U.S. citizens and 
lawful permanent residents. The Government of the CNMI shared with the 
Department the good-faith efforts it has made and its continuing 
efforts to locate, educate, and train U.S. citizens and lawful 
permanent residents to assume jobs in the CNMI. They reported that they 
continue to provide education and training to unemployed or 
underemployed U.S. workers to help them become sufficiently qualified 
to replace foreign workers. They developed high school career technical 
education (CTE) curriculum that is responsive to the needs of employers 
in the CNMI.
    Concerning the sixth factor, officials from the CNMI government 
reported that some U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents are not 
willing to accept certain jobs, including low-wage jobs or jobs with 
few or no benefits. Our analysis of the CNMI Department of Finance tax 
data for 2002-2012 found that foreign workers generally earn 
significantly less than U.S. workers. In 2011, the average annual wage 
for U.S. workers was $15,737 compared to $10,280 for foreign workers. 
On average, foreign workers are paid $5,457 (or 35 percent) less than 
U.S. workers.
    In regard to the seventh factor, the Department was unable to 
assess the extent to which the admission of foreign workers affects the 
compensation, benefits, and living standards of existing workers in 
industries authorized to employ foreign workers due to limitations in 
current data. To address the seventh factor, the Department conducted 
an analysis similar to the approach used by GAO in its 2008 report to 
measure the potential economic impact of applying U.S. immigration law 
in the CNMI.
    To address the eighth factor, we consulted with CNMI government 
officials and other stakeholders to determine if there is a need for 
foreign workers to fill specific industry jobs. CNMI government 
officials reported that legitimate businesses in the CNMI have 
difficulty finding qualified applicants for skilled jobs who are U.S. 
citizens and lawful permanent residents.
    Finally, the Department engaged in the interagency and 
intergovernmental consultation process, as contemplated by the statute. 
48 U.S.C. 1806(d)(5)(A). As part of this process, the Department 
conducted a series of meetings with DHS, the Department of Defense, the 
Department of the Interior, and CNMI elected officials, including the 
Governor, during which the participants examined the statutory criteria 
to assess whether the Department should extend the transition period. 
None of the participants in those consultations registered objections 
to the grant of an extension for up to five years to ensure that an 
adequate number of workers are available for legitimate businesses in 
the CNMI.
    After reviewing existing studies, consulting with DHS, the 
Department of Defense, the Department of the Interior, and CNMI elected 
officials, including the Governor, and conducting a quantitative 
analysis of relevant data, the Secretary of Labor has concluded that 
there is an insufficient number of U.S. workers to meet CNMI 
businesses' current needs, and has further determined that a five year 
extension of the CW-1 program is warranted. A five-year extension will 
allow CNMI businesses to continue to hire CW-1 workers to meet their 
current and future needs for foreign workers.
    Because the CNRA allows the Secretary of Labor to provide for an 
additional extension period of up to five years, the Department will 
continue to monitor and assess the current and anticipated labor needs 
of the CNMI to ensure that there are an adequate number of workers for 
CNMI's legitimate businesses. 48 U.S.C. 1806(d)(5)(C). In particular, 
we will continue to assess any good faith efforts to locate, educate, 
train, or otherwise prepare U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents 
and unemployed foreign workers already in the CNMI to assume

[[Page 31990]]

jobs in legitimate businesses. 48 U.S.C. 1806(d)(5)(C)(v). In order for 
us to properly assess the CNMI's workforce in the future, we request 
that the CNMI government provide updates to the Department on a yearly 
basis about its good faith efforts to locate, educate, train, or 
otherwise prepare U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and 
unemployed alien workers already in the CNMI.
    Section 701 of the CNRA states it is the intent of the Congress to 
minimize potential adverse economic and fiscal effects of phasing-out 
CNMI's nonresident contract worker program and to maximize the CNMI's 
potential for future economic and business growth by, among other 
things, assuring that foreign workers are protected from the potential 
for abuse and exploitation. Pub. L. 110-229, Sec. 701(a)(1)(E), 48 
U.S.C. 1806 note. The Department emphasizes the importance of 
Congress's intent in this regard, and further notes that this notice 
should not be construed to alter or amend the continuing obligations of 
CNMI employers to adhere to and comply with applicable civil rights, 
labor and workplace safety laws. Employers in CNMI remain subject to 
the array of federal laws that, among others, ensure and protect the 
rights of workers to a workplace based on fair treatment, and free of 
unlawful discrimination and hazards to safety and health. Those and 
other workplace rights will continue to be applied forcefully by the 
Department and other federal agencies with jurisdiction to administer 
and enforce federal worker protection laws.

    Signed at Washington, DC, this 27 of May, 2014.
Thomas E. Perez,
Secretary of Labor.
[FR Doc. 2014-12607 Filed 6-2-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE P