By Alex J. Rhowuniong
Education: Top reason for FSM citizens' move to Guam
Education ranked as the top reason for Micronesian citizens’ relocation to Guam; followed by medical assistance and jobs.
This was the result of a mini-survey of Federated States of Micronesia’s citizens on Guam during a meeting with representatives from U.S.
Government Accountability Office, who are conducting a study on Compact migration.
More than 50 people attended a dialogue-meeting between GAO and the FSM community on Guam at the FSM Consulate Office in Harmon Monday night.
Emil Friberg Jr. answers questions during a U.S. Government Accountability Office's meeting with the Federated States of Micronesia community on Guam Aug. 26 at the FSM Consulate Office in Harmon. Photo by Alex J. Rhowuniong.
The meeting, according to Emil Friberg Jr., GAO assistant director, was part of a study they are doing requested by U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, "to review compact migration to U.S. areas under the Compact of Free Association (COFA) between the United States and FSM, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau."
"We are working with federal agencies, state/territorial governments, embassy officials, academics, and community groups to learn more and prepare a report (on a host of) topics," stated their information sheet handed out before the meeting.
•Location and demographics of compact migrant populations in the United States •Impacts of migration, including reported costs and benefits •Federal, state/territorial, and other programs that focus on compact migration."
"GAO started work on this study back in spring of 2019," the informational sheet continued, "with plans to issue a public report in spring of 2020."
The GAO team is currently on Guam after conducting the same study in Hawaii. It will go up north to the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands next after they are done with target groups.
Members of the U.S. Government Accountability Office team, Caitlin Mitchell (left) and Topher Hoffmann (right), taking notes while listening to members of the Federated States of Micronesia community on Guam last night at the FSM Consulate Office in Harmon. Photo by Alex J. Rhowuniong.
When asked if the study is also directly related to the FSM-US Compact re-negotiation in 2023, Friberg Jr. said he was not at liberty to answer such question, repeating only what's been stated in their information sheet.
At the end of the two-hour meeting, however, some participants expressed disappointment that they were not able to spend more time talking to the team.
"I wish we could've talked some more," said Nedine F. Songeni, a native of Chuuk and now a resident of Yigo.
"Two hours is not enough! (GAO's) findings will have a far-reaching impact in policy changes," said Mangilao resident Sam Illesugam, originally from Yap.
Illesugam also said in order for the GAO team to understand fully the situation surrounding COFA citizens' travels and stay – including their challenges and contributions— in Guam and the rest of the U.S., the two hours afforded them Monday night was not nearly enough.
Key questions from the team included, among others: •Reasons you chose Guam? •Benefits of living and working on Guam? •Challenges? •And types of jobs?
Before FSM Compact was ratified in 1986, getting a college education at the University of Guam was the primary motivation for entering Guam. After the Compact, high school and elementary were added with medical needs and jobs.
Also present at the meeting was FSM vice president, Yosiwo George, Francis X. Hezel-- Micronesian historian and prolific writer on social issues in the region--and Michael Levin, retired member of the office of US Census Bureau; currently, a Hawaii-based freelance census consultant working on Guam the past few months.