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  • By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

FAS migrants make up 11 percent of Guam's population

The population of freely associated states citizens living on Guam—which remains to be the main destination for Compact migrants — has increased by 9 percent as of 2018, according to the Census Bureau’s report.

The report posted April 26 on the Department of the Interior’s website showed that Guam was home to 18,874 FAS migrants, accounting for 11 percent of the island’s total population.

Approximately 38,114 FAS migrants were residing in Guam, Hawaii, CNMI and American Samoa as of 2018. Hawaii is home to 16,680 migrants, showing a 12 percent increase and accounting for 1 percent of the state’s population.

The CNMI hosted 2,535 FAS migrants, showing a 5 percent decrease and accounting for 5 percent of the Commonwealth population. American Samoa is hosting 25 Compact migrants.

“These estimates, to be used for the next five years, provide the basis for determining the FY 2019 distribution amounts,” according to the Department of Interior.

Under the Compacts of Free Association, citizens from the Federated States of Micronesia Palau and Marshall Islands are allowed visa-free entry to the United States and any of its jurisdictions, where they may legally live, work, acquire education and receive social services.

DOI Assistant Secretary Doug Domenech announced Tuesday the distribution of $34 million in Compact grant funds among the host jurisdictions. Guam stands to receive $16.8 million. Hawaii has been allocated $14.8 million; the CNMI will receive $2.2 million and American Samoa, $22,678.

A portion of Guam’s FY 2019 Compact Impact funding was released to Guam earlier in the Fall of 2018 to support Guam’s Public School Leaseback Program.

The reimbursements for the cost of hosting COFA citizens have been a sticking point between Guam and the federal government.

Based on Guam’s January 2018 Compact impact report, the local government incurred $147 million on education, health care, public safety and other services provided to FAS citizens in 2017. Between 2004 and 2017, the total cost reached $1.2 billion, according to Guam’s report, which the federal government refused to acknowledge.

In her first state of the island address in April, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said the COFA is among the federal mandates that create “a huge hole” in Guam’s pockets.

“Yet the Compacts of Free Association Act has led to an increased demand on our local services and infrastructure, and Congress has refused to cover the costs of this burden on our government,” the governor said.

In rejecting the reimbursement amount being claimed by the local government, the federal government argued that Guam’s calculations did not meet the standards set by the U.S. General Accountability Office.

“In order to meet these standards, my administration is working with Governor Ige of Hawaii to be sure that the formula we utilize to report our costs is accurate and universal to both our jurisdictions,” Leon Guerrero said in her state of the island address. “The bottom line is that we need to be smarter when working with the federal government and that begins under my watch.”

The DOI, just the same, acknowledged that Guam and Hawaii have been the U.S. communities most impacted by FAS migrants under the Compact.

“Given that the resources do not meet the needs as outlined by the most impacted jurisdictions, Guam and Hawai’i, Interior has sought other ways to help mitigate Compact Impact,” Domenech said. “One example of this is providing financial assistance to non-profit organizations Mañelu on Guam and We Are Oceania in Hawai’i.”

On April 30, Domenech announced $517,014 in in technical assistance program funding to two non-profit organizations: the Mañe’lu Micronesian Resource Center (MRC) One-Stop Shop on Guam and the We are Oceania Hālau Ola One-Stop Center in Hawai’i.

“Created with funding provided by Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs, the two non-profit organizations provide new-migrant orientation, family support services, and workforce development programs to individuals from the freely associated states,” DOI said. “The programs have provided assistance to over 10,000 individuals in Hawai’i, and over 3,600 on Guam.”


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