CNMI Governor Meets With President Trump; Assured Of His Support

Torres asks for help with Chinese visa-waiver program; CNMI-only worker permits

By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, April 6, 2017) – Governor Ralph D.L.G. Torres met with President Donald Trump in the White House, Tuesday afternoon in Washington, D.C., to discuss CNMI economic issues, including the Chinese visa-waiver program.

Torres met with Trump at 5:15 p.m., or 7:15 a.m., Wednesday, Saipan time, in the Oval Office. With the president was his chief of staff, Reinhold Priebus.

“President Trump asked how the economy was in the CNMI,” Torres said, adding that he wanted to meet with the president to seek support for the continued implementation of the Chinese visa-waiver program.

Torres also expressed the need for the CW program to continue, adding that an adequate workforce is critical to the economic success of the CNMI. He said President Trump and Priebus both committed to working with the governor on this crucial program.

“I told the president that there has been growth and progress in the last few years — and that the economy continues to grow,” Torres said. “I also told him, ‘We need your assistance Mr. President with the Chinese visa-waiver program.’ “

According to the governor, President Trump turned to Priebus, and said: “We need to do what we can to continue the economic growth in the CNMI. Take care of my friend.”

Priebus told the president that work has begun to help strengthen the CNMI’s economy, one critical component of which is the Chinese visa-waiver program.

“The president and his chief of staff are both in agreement to help us,” Torres said.

In welcoming Torres to the Oval Office, President Trump noted that the CNMI Republican was the first territorial governor to support and endorse his presidential candidacy.

“This is the first governor to endorse me; he is a long time friend,” Trump said.

Following his meeting with the president, Torres and Priebus proceeded to join Jason Osborne, the governor’s representative in the nation’s capital, who was in a separate meeting with Rick Dearborn, the president’s deputy chief of staff for intergovernmental affairs.

Osborne said Torres’s meeting with President Trump is unprecedented. This is the first time that any sitting U.S. president has opened the doors of the Oval Office to a territorial governor, he added.

Osborne said on Wednesday (Thursday, Saipan time), he will meet with Department of Homeland Security and White House senior policy advisors “to reiterate the importance of the Chinese visa-waiver program.”

For the past couple of months, the Torres administration, with the assistance of Osborne, has been in almost “daily discussions” with DHS officials regarding the need for a continuation of the visa-waiver program and why it is critical to the survival of the CNMI economy.

At the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in February, the governor talked about the CNMI’s unique situation and why it needs the CW and the Chinese visa-waiver programs.

After meeting with the president, Governor Torres met with Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinkie.

“Please tell the President that I am in support of the continuation of the Chinese visa-waiver program,” Secretary Zinkie was quoted by the governor as saying during their meeting.

“Today is just an amazing day for us,” Osborne said. “We also met with Interior Secretary Zinkie and he assured us of his support for the CNMI’s initiatives to sustain its growth and development.”

The governor invited the Interior secretary to visit the CNMI. Secretary Zinke accepted and said that his office will work on the details of his visit.

Marianas Variety
Copyright © 2017 Marianas Variety. All Rights Reserved

Comments

  • See, President Trump is not an unreasonable monster after all. He is more eager to help where economic productivity and self-reliance is concerned, even if it means allowing visa-waiver for the Chinese labors and investors. Maybe we should invite Secretary Zinke to the FSM also and talk about 2023, WHY NOT?? I am sure the Secretary would enjoy talking business over some genuine island sakau just like some of our American friends are doing in PNI.
  • Two Chinese Suspected Of Hiring 'Tourists' Arrested At Saipan Airport

    Nearly 400 undocumented workers alleged to be working to build casino

    By Bryan Manabat

    SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, April 6, 2017) – Two individuals who were about to leave for China were arrested at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport on Wednesday for knowingly hiring “tourists” to perform construction work at the casino-hotel project site in Garapan.

    According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which filed criminal complaints against them in federal court, Guo Wencai and Qi Xiufang are part of Beilida Overseas (CNMI)’s scheme to employ 398 undocumented construction workers who came to Saipan as tourists.

    Beilida and MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co. are construction subcontractors of Imperial Pacific International.

    The FBI said as early as Jan. 20, 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor on Saipan had begun scrutinizing the labor practices of Beilida Overseas (CNMI).

    FBI lead investigator Joe W. McDoulett said a worker who claimed to be an employee of Beilida gave a written statement to U.S. Labor saying that he came to Saipan as a tourist.

    The worker said Beilida had two teams of workers. One of the teams was led by Guo Wencai and the other was led by Qi Xiufang.

    Another individual, Feng Huqui, who claimed to have worked for Beilida from Aug. 19, 2016 to March 25, 2017, also told U.S. Labor that Beilida’s workers were divided into two groups, one led by Guo and the other by Qi.

    Guo led about 180 workers while Qi led 280 workers, Feng said, adding that 80-90 percent of workers under them held tourist visas.

    Feng said he provided a bank account number to Guo for payment of wages.

    McDoulett said Lu Hui, the registered sole owner of Beilida Overseas (CNMI), told him in an interview that Hu Yuanyou, the worker who died after falling of a scaffold on March 22, 2017, was brought to Saipan by an individual named Xu Heping, the owner of Chengdu Heping Chao Corporation.

    Guo is from the Sichuan province in China and an open search revealed that Chengdu, home of Xu Heping’s corporation, is also located in Sichuan.

    McDoulett said from the correlation of the numbers provided in Beilida’s personnel chart, the statements of Beilida’s workers, the origin of Guo Wencai and Xu Heping — it appears that Guo is a stand-in representative for Xu Heping.

    Last week, the FBI executed a search warrant on the offices of MCC international and Beilida Overseas at the Kase II Building in Garapan and arrested MCC project manager Yuqing Zhao who appeared in federal court on Monday for an initial hearing.

    His detention hearing is scheduled for today, Thursday, at 4 p.m.

    A separate criminal complaint was filed against Ruan Pei, who said she was an electrician with MCC, but there had been no update about her case as of Wednesday.

    Marianas Variety
    Copyright © 2017 Marianas Variety. All Rights Reserved
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