Oregon State Allows People From Freely Associated States To Serve As Law Enforcement Officers

Adoption of legislation continues to show state has 'most islander-friendly legislative body in the United States'

By Giff Johnson - For Variety

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, Feb. 24, 2017) – The Oregon State Legislature this week adopted legislation to allow islanders from the Freely Associated States or FAS in the north Pacific to take jobs as law enforcement officers, the latest in a series of legislative initiatives that has branded Oregon’s legislature as the most islander-friendly legislative body in the United States.

The Oregon State House Representatives unanimously passed H.B. 2594, which allows non-immigrants authorized to enter United States under Compact of Free Association to become law enforcement officers. This effects islanders from Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands resident in Oregon. The legislation opens the first opportunity for FAS citizens resident in Oregon to work in law enforcement.

“Special appreciation to Rep. Andy Olson for championing this important legislation,” said David Anitok, a Marshall Islander who is Compact Action National Network or CANN Lead Community Organizer, in an email briefing on the legislative action Wednesday. “As Rep. Olson noted, this legislation recognizes the need for more diverse law enforcement in Oregon. It is an especially opportune time in Oregon as law enforcement agencies are experiencing significant shortages in staffing.”

Adoption of the new legislation follows a string of legislative actions supported by CANN and Oregon-resident islanders. In 2013, the Oregon Legislature voted to allow FAS citizens to get regular eight-year driver’s licenses and state identification that had been blocked by the U.S. Congress’ adoption of the Real ID Act of 2005 that omitted mention of FAS citizens, leaving them in limbo for accessing state identification. This was followed by unanimous adoption of a resolution honoring the hundreds of islanders who have served in the U.S. armed forces. Last year, the legislature adopted a measure to provide health care services to FAS citizens in Oregon that went into effect last month.

Anitok said the Oregon legislature’s Senate is scheduled next week to hold a public hearing on Senate Bill 147, which if adopted would direct the Department of Consumer and Business Services to develop and report, no later than September 15, 2017, recommendations to the Legislative Assembly and interim committees related to health for a program to reimburse costs of oral health care for low-income individuals residing in Oregon under the Compact of Free Association treaty.

“This is another important legislation that will allow a state agency to do a study on the most effective and affordable action to fill in the gap on oral healthcare for (FAS) residents in Oregon,” said Anitok. He urged people to attend the public hearing or submit a letter of support to the Senate Committee.

Next week Wednesday is the 63rd anniversary of the Bravo hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll, which exposed thousands of Marshall Islanders to radioactive fallout. To mark “Bravo Day” on March 1, CANN Oregon is hosting the fourth annual CANN Legislative Day at the capitol building, said Anitok. A range of issues, from the new state health insurance program to other legislative actions being proposed, will be discussed during the legislative day, said Anitok.

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