Feds must pick up the tab for convicted COFA citizens, Moylan says
Territorial delegate also proposes screening of Guam-bound migrants
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Federal law enforcement agencies must assume the expenses incurred by the government of Guam resulting from criminal convictions of errant citizens from the freely associated states, Guam Del. James Moylan said.
The transfer of correctional obligations over convicted FAS migrants is among the amendments Moylan proposed in the U.S.'s Compact of Free Association agreements with Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.
Moylan’s amendment— should it breeze through— would mandate “a collective effort of local law enforcement entities and federal agencies such as the FederalBureau of Prisons to move COFA migrants convicted of felonies to federal authorities, thus removing them from the expenses and authority of the local government.”
"We are seeking a hearing on our amendments,” Moylan said, adding that statistics from the Guam Police Department and the Department of Corrections showed a “very alarming” number of arrests and convictions of FAS citizens.
During the administration of Gov. Eddie Calvo, the government of Guam deported FAS citizens who were convicted of crimes. While the U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Service did not question Calvo's policy, the move received a backlash from the FSM government.
In the current COFA deliberations, Moylan also proposed the screening of Guam-bound FAS citizens. His amendment would require “that any FAS migrant permanently relocating to Guam provide evidence of employment or education.”
The Biden administration did not propose the renewal of the expired compact program that reimbursed host jurisdictions, such as Guam, for the costs associated with providing services to FAS citizens, who are allowed visa-free entry to any U.S. soil.
Guam has incurred $76.8 million in costs for providing social services to freely associated migrants, according to the government's Compact Impact Report for 2019 and 2020.
“Our team has and continues to place its foot down on the process until equitable solutions are identified. We refuse to be pushed aside," Moylan said.
The 20-year annual compact impact appropriations of $30 million, which was divided among Guam, Hawaii, American Samoa and the Northern Marianas, expired on Sept. 30.
Moylan has also proposed the reinstatement of the compact impact program.
“We can't just sit on the side and allow the federal government to dictate the terms of these agreements without providing the realities of the impact this would have on our community and our home collectively," Moylan added.
In lieu of the compact impact program, the U.S. Congress is considering the Compact Impact Fairness Act, which would create a pipeline of assistance that would flow directly to the FAS migrants.
However, Moylan said such an option “does nothing to address the public safety and societal concerns which many in our community have expressed.”
Moylan acknowledged that his amendments are facing rough sailing.
"While we anticipate much reluctance with our amendments, either from the opposition party in Congress or with the White House, the reality is that it is imperative that we express the issues with the COFA and its renewals with committee members,” he said.
While territorial delegates have no voting power on the floor, they can vote on the committee level.
TheHouse Natural Resources Committee is set to commence the discussions on the COFA agreements this month.