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FAS migrants will get nothing more than what is available to US citizens on Guam

Updated: Mar 20

Keone Nakoa

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

In a bid to sort out the confusion over the Compact Impact Fairness Act, a U.S. official said regional migrants living on Guam only stand to receive the same federal benefits applicable in the territorynothing more, nothing less.

“To be clear, CIFA will not provide eligibility to (freely associated states) communities living in Guam or anywhere else where the local residents do not also include those benefits,” said Keone Nakoa, deputy assistant secretary for Insular and International Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

“I appreciate raising awareness on this. I think there’s been some confusion about what benefits CIFA transfers or transmits in the past,” the Interior official said at a press briefing facilitated by the Department of State.

The newly signed CIFA restores the FAS migrants' eligibility for federal benefits that were removed from them in the 1996 Welfare Reform Act.

Under the Compacts of Free Association, citizens of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands may live, work and study in any U.S. jurisdiction.

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CIFA provides FAS migrants access to federal programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Social Services Block Grant Program and Social Security Income among others.

“Benefits and compensation from the federal government will be available to FAS individuals in whichever state or territory within the United States they choose to reside,” Nakoa said.

Some of the welfare assistance programs are not accessible to U.S. citizens living in U.S. territories. SSI, for example, is not applicable in Guam, American Samoa and Puerto Rico, while SNAP is not available in the Northern Marianas.

In previous rulings, the courts have upheld policies restricting U.S. territories' access to certain federal programs.


Nakoa clarified critics' suggestions that CIFA would give preferential treatment to FAS citizens.

“Essentially, CIFA just places the COFA communities in the same shoes as the residents living in whatever state or territory that they choose to reside,” Nakoa said.

“So in California, they have the benefits that any California resident would have. In Hawaii, the same. And in Guam, the same. Hopefully, that is able to shed some light on what CIFA does or does not do,” he added.

CIFA accompanied the Compact of Free Association Amendments Act of 2024, which renewed the U.S. economic assistance to Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands. 

“Through this measure, Congress addressed longstanding challenges for citizens of each of the FAS who chose or choose to reside lawfully in the United States as provided for under the Compact agreements," Nakoa said. 

While restoring eligibility for key federal programs for the FAS individuals, Nakoa said CIFA provides a long-term solution to the economic impact borne by host governments. 


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