Guam Remains Top Destination For Compact Migrants

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Interior report to congress notes impact funding not sufficient

By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Feb. 8, 2016) – The exodus of people from the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands mostly to Guam and Hawaii continues, but U.S. financial assistance to the hosts remains insufficient, a new federal report states.

The Department of the Interior’s 2015 Compact Impact Analysis, submitted to Congress last month, shows Guam remained the regional migrants’ main destination.

Guam hosted 9,931 regional migrants in 2003, and that number nearly doubled to 18,305 five years later.

In the latest count, in 2013, Guam’s number of regional migrants dipped slightly, by 6 percent to 17,170.

Still, more than 10 percent of the island’s population now consists of regional migrants.

Citizens of the three island nations continue to leave home for the United States due to economic, education and health-care concerns at home, according to Interior’s report.

Increased oversight and accountability are needed in the island nations’ use of U.S. government funds, particularly for health and education, according to the Interior Department.

"Improving the quality of life for (the island nations’) citizens may help address out-migration," according to Interior.

Hawaii’s regional migrant population was at 14,700 in 2013, the Interior report to Congress states. With a much larger population of 1.4 million compared to Guam, regional migrants made up 1 percent of the Aloha State’s population.

Interior’s report was submitted Jan. 7 to Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The Northern Marianas hosted 2,660 migrants from the FSM, Palau and Marshall Islands in 2013, while American Samoa hosted the least — 25 — of the 34,555 regional migrants who have left their homelands.

Short on federal funds

The government of Guam has reported to the federal government that for 11 consecutive years, through fiscal 2014, GovGuam had spent $856 million on services for "Compact migrants."

However, Guam, Hawaii and the Northern Marianas share the $33 million annual federal pot for hosts of the regional migrants.

Guam calculated regional migrant-related expenses of $144 million in fiscal 2014 alone, but the federal reimbursement of $18.5 million, fell short.

"Guam and Hawaii seek additional funds to close the gaps between their 2014 shares of federal Compact impact moneys," Interior stated, in part.

The Interior Department states it "concurs that the current allocation of mandatory and discretionary funds are insufficient to meet the financial impact costs in Guam and Hawaii associated with the Compact agreements" with the governments of the FSM, Palau and the Marshall Islands.

Interior’s report, however, stopped short of recommending specific dollar increases to federal financial assistance to Guam and other host governments.

"Given national budgetary constraints, the department knows that it will be challenging to increase mandatory and discretionary funding streams for Guam and Hawaii, but believe the policy recommendations by the affected jurisdictions deserve attention," states the Interior Department’s report, submitted by Esther Kia’aina, assistant secretary for Insular Areas.

Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo recently introduced an amendment that would make U.S. citizens and nationals priority for public housing programs in Guam and for the regional migrants to fall to the back of the waitlist.

Hawaii has asked that a portion of U.S. government funds provided to the FSM, Marshall Islands and Palau governments be used to help Hawaii pay for big-ticket medical expenses, such as dialysis and cancer treatment for regional migrant patients.

Interior has provided a $250,000 grant to Guam nonprofit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Guam for a Micronesian Resource Center One-Stop Shop.

The project is meant to improve the integration of regional migrants, assist new arrivals through orientation services, provide workforce development training and employment services, and provide support to address cultural and social challenges.

Under the island nations’ Compact of Free Association agreements with the U.S. government, their citizens are allowed to live in any U.S. location without having to apply for travel visas.

They are required, however, to be economically self-sufficient, but the rule hasn’t been enforced.

Their access to the United States is exchange for U.S. access to the island nations’ waters, land and airspace for defense purposes.

 

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