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Law requires study on prescreening regional migrants

COFA

Law requires study on prescreening regional migrants

Federal treaties state regional migrants are allowed to live in Guam and elsewhere in the United States under certain conditions. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is required by law to study the possibility of prescreening immigrants from the Freely Associated States before they’re allowed to enter.

The possibility of changing immigration requirements is one reason several members of the Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia have said they are unhappy with their nation’s current Compact of Free Association with the United States.

Public Law 112–74 directed Homeland Security to conduct a cost-benefit study to prescreen immigrants from the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and the Republic of the Marshall Islands before they’re allowed entry to the U.S.

The issue of prescreening regional migrants was cited as one of the reasons in a recent FSM Congress resolution that proposes to give the FSM president’s office authority to end the island nation’s Compact of Free Association agreement with the United States.

FSM citizens can freely enter the United States and stay indefinitely to work and study under the Compact, which allows U.S. military use of FSM land, sea and air space for defense purposes.

If the FSM does move forward and finalize ending the Compact, it would cause FSM citizens who are living in Guam and elsewhere in the United States to lose their status to stay in America, said immigration attorney Ladd Baumann.

The resolution, introduced Nov. 19 in the FSM Congress, signals to Washington, D.C., that certain members of the FSM Congress are unhappy with their island nation’s relationship with the United States.

Under the terms of their respective Compacts of Free Association with the United States, citizens of the FSM, the Marshall Islands, and Palau are eligible to work in the United States as nonimmigrants for an unlimited length of time, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Convicted felons are deportable, but two recent cases in federal court show two deported FSM citizens have been able to return to Guam, and one used a FSM passport under a different name.

The government of Guam has reported to the federal government that GovGuam spent $326.5 million in education, health care, public services, social services and other public services on migrants from the three island nations with Compact of Free Association agreements with the United States.

Hawaii, Guam, and the CNMI reported more than $1 billion in costs associated with providing education, health, and social services to compact migrants — far in excess of the $210 million in federal Compact impact grants over that time period, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report in 2013.

The FSM, the Marshall Islands, and Palau are among the smallest countries in the world, according to the U.S. GAO.

Migrant population

In 2008, there were 104,000 people in the FSM, 54,000 in the Marshall Islands, and 21,000 in Palau.

Combined data from various surveys, including the 2009 American Community Survey and the 2008 required enumerations in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands estimated that approximately 56,000 compact migrants — a quarter of all FAS citizens — lived in U.S. areas, according to the GAO report.

An estimated 32.5 percent live in Guam, 21.4 percent in Hawaii, and 3.7 percent in the CNMI, while nine mainland states each had an estimated compact migrant population of more than 1,000, according to GAO.

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