Feds To GovGuam, Don’t Expect Large Compact Impact Check

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Migrants from Free Associated States also ‘provide positive contributions’

By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, April 5, 2014) – In this era of congressional budget cuts, it's unlikely that the government of Guam will be paid hundreds of millions of dollars for hosting immigrants from the Micronesia region, a federal official said yesterday.

And regional migrants provide positive contributions to Guam through the jobs they hold and the taxes they pay, said acting Assistant Secretary Lori Faeth, with the Department of the Interior's Insular Affairs section.

Faeth and Kiran Ahuja, executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islands, are among a large group of federal officials visiting Guam this week.

Some of them were featured speakers at a regional conference that discussed the roles non-governmental organizations play in the development of islands across the Micronesia region.

Representatives from the federal departments of Health, Labor, Veterans Affairs, Mental Health and Commerce, as well as the Small Business Administration, were represented in what's considered one of the largest multi-agency groups of federal officials to visit Guam from Washington in years.

During the federal officials' meetings with local government officials, the issue of regional migration was a dominant concern. Gov. Eddie Calvo on Thursday announced he wants to remind President Barack Obama of the federal government's obligation to pay Guam's true cost of providing health care to regional immigrants.

Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz has called for increased efforts on the federal government's part to deport more regional immigrants convicted of deportable crimes.

Cruz said earlier this week that GovGuam spends "in excess of $100 million annually in unreimbursed compact costs."

Thousands of citizens from the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau have made Guam their home, as a result of their island nations' Compacts of Free Association with the United States.

The U.S. government wants to continue to have access to the island nations for defense purposes and as part of its decades-old deal. In exchange, regional migrants are allowed to enter Guam and other parts of the U.S. without the need for visa processing.

Guam's elected officials said last month that as another budget year comes up, the federal government must step up and provide significant financial assistance as the island has become the top destination for the exodus of regional immigrants into the United States.

Almost a quarter of the citizens from the FSM, the Marshall Islands and Palau now live in the United States, and Guam hosts the biggest portion of them, a federal report shows.

The migration has made Guam home to 32.5 percent of the about 56,000 people from the FSM, Palau and the Marshall Islands who have relocated to the United States, a U.S. Government Accountability Office report from July 2013 shows.

When asked at a press conference yesterday about GovGuam's years-long request for hundreds of millions of dollars in "reimbursements" for providing services to regional migrants, Faeth said: "The migrants also bring positive things to your community; they are workers, they will be ... leaders, so it's looking from both sides of the equation."

She added that the federal government "is certainly fiscally constrained, ... and I certainly don't see an opportunity that Congress is suddenly gonna come up with hundreds of millions of dollars."

The federal government did provide, in addition to annual compact-impact funding that goes primarily to Guam and Hawaii, $5 million in discretionary funds, the bulk of which went to Guam, Faeth said.

With the federal budget constraints, Ahuja said, federal and local government representatives as well as non-government organizations need to work collectively toward improving job and health care opportunities in -- and for migrants from -- the FSM, Palau and the Marshall Islands.

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