COST OF MIGRANTS FROM FREELY ASSOCIATED STATES BEING STUDIED IN NORTHERN MARIANAS

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By Cookie B. Micaller

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (January 29, 1999 - Saipan Tribune)---The administration is preparing a study on the impact of the growing presence of the citizens from the Freely Associated States in the Northern Marianas whose uncontrolled migration has strained the islands' resources and infrastructure.

According to Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio, the cost impact analysis is being prepared by various government agencies to determine how much local funding is spent for hosting Micronesians in light of shrinking revenues.

The financially-troubled commonwealth has been seeking reimbursement from Washington for money spent in accommodating FAS citizens, who, under an agreement signed with the United States in 1986, are allowed unrestricted entry into the United States and its territories, including Guam and CNMI.

The Compact of Free Association, to which Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshalls are signatories, stipulates that the U.S. pays back host territories for sheltering residents from these neighboring islands.

Worried over the influx of FAS citizens into the Northern Marianas, legislators have called for a tighter immigration system and clear-cut policies on the admission of Micronesians.

A proposed bill introduced by Rep. Melvin Faisao, the first attempt to tackle mounting problems spawned by the open-migration policy, seeks to establish mechanisms to monitor FAS citizens residing in the commonwealth as well as reduce their impact on infrastructure and local funds, and encourage them to return to the work force.

Local officials are concerned that the unhampered entry of these nationals would further hurt the government's coffers and infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, courts and other welfare services extended to FAS citizens.

Under the Section 8 program of the Northern Marianas Housing Corporation that grants utility and housing subsidies to low-income families, for example, about 76 out of the 238 families currently being assisted are headed by FAS citizens.

Aside from the CNMI's social welfare program, Micronesians are admitted to the public educational system, enjoying the same privileges provided to local residents.

A study prepared for the Office of Insular Affairs shows that the commonwealth spends annually some $3.5 million for the education of school age children of FAS ethnicity.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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