GUAM GOVERNOR GUTIERREZ QUESTIONS MICRONESIAN IMMIGRATION IMPACT FUNDING

admin's picture

By Susan Roth Gannett News Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 5, 2001 - Pacific Daily News)---Of the $25 million for Hawai‘i projects included in a new Senate spending bill, Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawai‘i, is especially pleased about $5 million that would offset expenses of Pacific island immigration.

Earlier this year, Hawai‘i Gov. Ben Cayetano protested that Guam has received this kind of funding in the past while Hawai‘i has not. But the possibility that Hawai‘i could get money this year has aggravated Guam Gov. Carl Gutierrez, who fears that Hawai‘i's gain means Guam's loss.

For years, Inouye has requested money to help pay for health care, education and other social costs of immigration from the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau -- tiny island nations that have compacts of free association with the United States that allow their citizens easier immigration. Many of the migrants wind up in Hawai‘i or Guam.

Federal law allows for Hawai‘i and the territories to get federal payments to help offset the social impacts of those compacts, with the money administered by the Interior Department's Office of Insular Affairs. But lawmakers must seek the money annually in the congressional appropriations process.

Guam has received at least $4.58 million annually, but territorial officials say their economically depressed island actually needs much more. In fiscal 2001, Democratic Guam Delegate Robert Underwood was able to secure $9.58 million. For fiscal 2002, the House interior spending bill includes $5.38 million for Guam, while the related Senate bill contains the base of $4.58 million.

Meanwhile, the House bill contains no money for Hawai‘i while the Senate bill includes the $5 million requested by Inouye. The two measures have yet to be reconciled in a House-Senate conference committee. Gutierrez worries that Guam lacks the clout to increase its share, especially if Hawai‘i is getting money.

Gutierrez said Guam's census, with a 16 percent increase in population since 1990, shows the effects of immigration.

''It says, 'Listen guys, here's what's happening in Guam.' They can't just turn a blind eye to it,'' Gutierrez said. ''This substantiates our argument for federal funding every time. Hawai‘i just got $5 million for its compact impact, but we have 10 times the people (immigrants) here.''

Specific figures on immigration to Guam and Hawai‘i were not readily available.

In a February report to the Interior Department, Gutierrez said Guam spent nearly $24 million in fiscal 2000 on costs directly related to the compacts. Since the compacts' inception in fiscal 1986, Guam has received a total of $29 million while spending more than $100 million on services, he said.

Hawai‘i's Cayetano reported in February that the state has spent more than $64 million on compact-related costs since fiscal 1986 on education alone, but did not provide a total figure.

''I urge you to help redress the unfairness of the Clinton administration's increasing Guam's annual compact impact reimbursement . . . at a time when the state of Hawai‘i has never received any reimbursement whatsoever,'' Cayetano wrote to an insular affairs official.

The situation has put Hawai‘i's senators -- Inouye and Daniel Akaka, also a Democrat -- in a difficult spot since they usually help Guam with appropriations because the territory has no senators of its own.

But congressional staffers say Guam's efforts on compact-related money have been more independent, with more help from the Clinton White House and the Interior Department. And they say Hawai‘i's efforts could raise the profile of the compact funding issue and leverage money for Guam, leading to more money for both Hawai‘i and Guam.

''Sen. Inouye will continue to do his best to help Guam receive aid in addition to Hawai‘i's aid,'' said Inouye spokeswoman Sandi Skousen. ''He's not going to stop helping them.''

Underwood said he has already spoken with Inouye about the issue and is also working with Rep. Patsy Mink, D-Hawai‘i, who helped Guam by raising the issue on the House floor.

''Working closely with the Hawai‘i delegation is always better than struggling with them,'' Underwood said. ''Sen. Inouye made a very strong commitment to work with me to increase the funding. I don't feel that we're in competition now and I don't feel that we're in competition in the future. The more attention we draw to compact impact aid in general, the more this helps us in the long run.''

For additional reports from the Pacific Daily News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Pacific Daily News (Guam).

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment