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Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands: DHS Should Conclude Negotiations and Finalize Regulations to Implement Federal Immigration Law

GAO-10-553 Published: May 07, 2010. Publicly Released: May 07, 2010.
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In May 2008, the United States enacted the Consolidated Natural Resources Act (CNRA), amending the United States' Covenant with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) to establish federal control of CNMI immigration in 2009, with several CNMI-specific provisions affecting foreign workers and investors during a transition. CNRA requires that GAO report on implementation of federal immigration law in the CNMI. This report describes the steps federal agencies have taken to (1) secure the border in the CNMI and (2) implement CNRA with regard to workers, visitors, and investors. GAO reviewed federal laws, regulations, and agency documents; met with U.S. and CNMI officials; and observed federal operations in the CNMI.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Homeland Security To enable DHS to carry out its statutory obligation to implement federal border control and immigration in the CNMI, the Secretary of Homeland Security should work with the heads of CBP, ICE, and USCIS to establish strategic approaches and time frames for concluding negotiations with the CNMI government to resolve the operational challenges related to access to CNMI airport space, detention facilities, and information about the status of aliens.
Closed – Implemented
DHS agreed with our recommendation. In July 2011, we testified that DHS has resolved some these operational challenges since we issued our report. Specifically, in October 2010, DHS concluded negotiations with the CNMI government and both parties signed a long-term lease agreement that includes permission to renovate airport operating space in Saipan and Rota. Also, in April 2011, DHS concluded negotiations with the CNMI government for access to detention space in the CNMI correctional facility. (GAO-11-805T).

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