The author of a controversial bill granting Northern Marianas residency status to only certain groups has defended the legislation.
Bill H.R. 1466 went before a United States House Subcommittee earlier today.
It aims to resolve the legal status of some people in the CNMI under the immigration regime now run by the US.
But the legislation has been called separatist and likened to an apartheid-type status.
The bill's author, the CNMI's US Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan, says he is aware of the criticism, adding that his bill is about more than immigration.
He says individuals covered in his bill also include spouses or parents of US citizens, permanent residents and some people born in CNMI in the 1970s.
"To qualify under HR 1466 you must still be in lawful status and in true compliance with the standards of the immigration and nationality act."
Gregorio Kilili Sablan says the bill will not mean a financial strain on the Commonwealth as it provides no new benefits.
If the bill is passed by the House of Representatives it will go to the Senate.