Op-Ed: U.S. must shoulder costs of compacts of free association

The United States must begin to live up to its promise to adequately reimburse Guam, Hawaii, the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa for expenses related to regional migrants.

Every year, the federal government allocates $30 million for compact-impact reimbursements, with Guam getting the lion’s share — about $16.8 million annually. The U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs recently released $3 million in supplemental funding to help pay for services to accommodate migrants from other islands in Micronesia, with $1,491,000 for Guam.

But the government of Guam has reported that in fiscal 2016, the cost of services to compact migrants was $142 million. The other jurisdictions also have said the money received from the federal government falls far short of the actual cost of services.

Guam, Hawaii, the Northern Marianas and American Samoa have no choice in hosting regional migrants. Federal compacts of free association with the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau allow citizens of those nations to live and work in the United States and its territories. In exchange, the U.S. is given access to those nations for defense purposes.

This arrangement benefits the U.S. strategically while also helping citizens of the Freely Associated States who want to improve their economic situation.

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