CNMI SEEKS MORE U.S. SUPPORT FOR IMMIGRANTS

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By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, July 30) – U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs David Cohen says the federal government never promised to fully reimburse Northern Marianas and other territories hosting migrants from Micronesia.

But, he said, the U.S. still allotted US$600 million in "Compact-Impact" funds for Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific islands hosting migrants from the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau.

This money will be distributed to Hawaii and the territories over a 20-year period.

"The U.S. never promised to fully reimburse the CNMI for expenses incurred as a result of migration from the Freely Associated States," Cohen said. "The U.S. has chosen from time to time to provide Compact-Impact assistance to Hawaii and the Pacific territories, and is providing US$600 million for that purpose to be shared by all of those jurisdictions over a 20-year period," he said in an e-mail interview with Variety.

"However, we have no legal obligation to do so," he added.

Interior and the CNMI are negotiating the amount of Compact-Impact reimbursements for the commonwealth.

The last U.S. Census for the CNMI was completed in 2000. At that time, more than 5,000 Micronesians were believed to be residing here.

The CNMI government believes that the cost of hosting the FAS migrants is more than what the federal government provides in Compact-Impact aid.

Since 2005, the CNMI gets US$5.17 million in annual Compact Impact funds

Last month, Gov. Benigno R. Fitial asked the U.S. Congress to give the CNMI US$155 million in Covenant 702 funds.

According to the administration, the Covenant entitles the CNMI to receive US$27.7 million in annual appropriation for capital improvement projects.

But the CNMI receives only an average of US$10 million a year and has not been fully reimbursed for hosting FAS migrants, the administration stated.

[PIR editor’s note: According to PIR archives, the CNMI was slated to receive US$17.4 million in Compact Impact funds for 2006. Additionally, the CNMI public schools system received US$2 million in compact funds in July 2006.]

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