EDITOR’S NOTE: Congressman Charles K. Djou (HI-01) wrote a letter to Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of Homeland Security, regarding the ongoing challenges associated with the Compact of Free Association (COFA) between the United States and the Federated States of Micronesia:
For too long, the State of Hawaii has had to bear a disproportionate burden in providing social services for Micronesian citizens who are legally allowed to travel to the United States without visas. While Micronesian citizens comprise less than 1% of Hawaii’s population, they consume over 20% of Hawaii’s social services. This burden is simply unfair to the taxpayers of Hawaii who, like citizens of any state, are making tough choices during these difficult economic times.
The Compact with Micronesia is an important part of our foreign policy, and I welcome Micronesian citizens to the United States in general and to Hawaii in particular. But there remain certain legal standards for residency that must be met, and those Micronesian citizens who are unable to care for themselves should not become charges of the State.
I agree with the President and Secretary Napolitano that comprehensive immigration reform is needed. Indeed, I have been an advocate for such reform in the Congress and have introduced several measures that must be part of any successful immigration reform legislation. Throughout my career in elected office, I have argued for reforming the Compact with Micronesia because of its unduly adverse impact on our island state. As the Congress and the Administration move toward immigration reform, I will continue to advocate for Hawaii.
During my meeting with the Ambassador from the Federated States of Micronesia, we discussed several issues of mutual importance. In particular, I expressed concern regarding the impact of Micronesian emigration on the City and County of Honolulu’s and the State of Hawaii’s social service programs and we agreed that the status quo is not working.
I have introduced several bills that I believe are necessary components of any comprehensive immigration package, including a bill that would increase the number of HI-B visas to prevent the “brain drain” that occurs when the best and brightest foreign nationals come to the United States to obtain graduate degrees and then leave for another country.
I also met with the Filipino Ambassador to the United States, Willy Gaa. Following the meeting with Ambassador Gaa, I introduced “The Family Reunification Act of 2010,” which would provide visas to spouses and children of lawful permanent residents for the purpose of reuniting families that have been or could be separated during the process of immigrating to the United States.
The letter I wrote to Secretary Napolitano about these issues reads in part:
“I applaud and agree with your recent comments asking Congress to take the lead on immigration reform. I will work with my colleagues to support a comprehensive reform package that honors our laws, protects our borders, rewards legal immigration, and prevents illegal immigration. Until reform arrives, however, the Department of Homeland Security has a responsibility to enforce the nation’s current immigration laws.”