Federal Government Developing Plan to Address Burden of COFA Migrants

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The federal government will develop a plan to address the economic impact Compact of Free Association (COFA) Migrants are having on Hawaii’s economy and develop a plan to mitigate the burden for the state, Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Senator Daniel K. Akaka, U.S. Representative Mazie K. Hirono and U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa announced today.

The Compact of Free Association refers to the legal relationship between the United States and the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.


To further address the economic impact Compact Migrants are having on the State of Hawaii’s budget, language was included directing the Departments of Interior, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, State and Foreign Operations, and Defense to develop a comprehensive, interagency approach to reduce the financial burden placed on affected jurisdictions.

The language was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012.

The President is directed to convene, within 45 days, a National Security Council Interagency Policy Committee on Freely Associated State (FAS) affairs in order to develop an action plan to reduce the impact of FAS migration on Federal, State, local, and territorial governments.   Report language also directed the Department of Interior to fill vacant positions under the Office of Insular Affairs and further directs that at least one position would be dedicated to working on Compact Impact issues.

Lastly, the President is required to submit the action plan to the Committees not later than 180 days after the enactment of this Act.

“While we continue to abide by the conditions outlined by our existing agreement with the governments of Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands we can no longer absorb the brunt of caring for their communities alone.  We stand by our neighbors in the Pacific residing in Hawaii but we need increased federal funds and more support from their resident governments to see to it that they continue to receive the quality of education and health care enjoyed by all Americans.  We have long enjoyed a fruitful and cooperative relationship through the Compact and look forward to expanding and improving that relationship,” said Senator Inouye.

“This provision calls upon the federal government to fulfill the national responsibilities created by the Compact of Free Association,” said Senator Akaka.  “Hawaii has much aloha for our Pacific Island neighbors and I have long supported federal assistance to meet the increasing needs of COFA citizens.   This year I introduced the Medicaid Restoration for Citizens of Freely Associated States Act to increase federal support for health care by re-establishing Medicaid eligibility for COFA citizens living in the United States.”

“We as a nation must stand by the agreements made with the Pacific nations in the Compacts of Free Association. These agreements provide important strategic advantages to the United States and continue a long relationship with the people of these nations. The Micronesians and Marshallese who live in Hawaii are our friends and neighbors. We know, however, that a few jurisdictions the United States, such as Hawaii, carry more of the financial burden of these agreements than others, without receiving a comparable amount of federal support. I recently spoke to President Obama about this issue. I commend Senator Inouye for getting language included in the final spending bill to direct the federal government to address the many needs of Compact migrants, while providing assistance to those areas that serve the largest number of migrants,” said U.S. Representative Hirono (HI-D).

“One of the great things about our state is our diversity, and we welcome people of different cultures and ethnicities with aloha,” said U.S. Representative Hanabusa. “But Hawaii should not be forced to foot the bill for an agreement that is essentially the responsibility of the federal government. During a time when Hawaii, like many states, faces severe budget constraints, we must ensure that the affected states and territories receive adequate federal support to help offset the costs for Compact migrants. It is a matter of fairness for both Hawaii taxpayers and the COFA migrants themselves. I am hoping to see real progress in addressing and offsetting the burdens imposed on states by COFA.”

Submitted by Hawaii’s congressional delegation