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One Step Closer

On a voice vote on Tuesday, the House passed legislation that would give the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands a nonvoting delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives.

[IMGCAP(1)]But the bill also would extend federal immigration law to the islands and transfer immigration enforcement authority from the territorial to the federal government, a provision that drew the ire of CNMI Gov. Benigno Fitial, who said it would “destroy our economy, which we all know is already on life support.”

CNMI’s nonvoting delegate, like delegates from other U.S. territories and the District of Columbia, would be able to introduce legislation and vote in committee but could not participate in House floor votes.

The bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to gradually implement the Immigration and Nationality Act in the territory during a transition period beginning a year after the bill’s passage into law and ending on Dec. 31, 2013.

A similar bill, S. 1634, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), has been referred to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has not yet held a markup on the bill.

— Daniel Jackson