September 19, 2011

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press

September 15, 2011 Pohnpei, FSM - Hawaii's powerful Senator Daniel Inouye, the Dean of the United States Senate and Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee has played a game changing card with the passage in the Senate of his committee's U.S. Homeland Security budget. The budget directs the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to "implement all legally allowable grounds of inadmissibility under the Compact which apply to nationals from the FAS." Essentially Inouye's committee wants a report on DHS plans to implement regulations to keep some FAS citizen's out of the United States.

Inouye's July 25 letter written to the heads of state of each of the Freely Associated States (FAS) which was read at a meeting in Pohnpei of those leaders in late July said "I look forward to our governments working together to develop and implement reasonable and effective policies to reduce Compact Impact costs and to reduce growing social tensions between FAS migrants and the Hawaiian community." However, his committee's recommendation within the Homeland Security budget makes no mention whatsoever of working together with FAS countries.

The FAS countries are The Federated States of Micronesia, The Republic of Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

"The Committee recognizes that the scope of these impacts (impacts of the Compact of Free Association) will have to be addressed by multiple Federal agencies and believes that the administration must develop a comprehensive, interagency approach to reduce the financial burden placed on affected jurisdictions. Therefore, the Committee directs the President to convene, within 45 days after the date of enactment of this act, a National Security Council Interagency Policy Committee on Freely Associated State Affairs, with representation from the relevant departments and agencies including the Departments of State, the Interior, Defense, Education, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, to develop an action plan to reduce the impact of FAS migration on Federal, State, local, and territorial governments, particularly those in affected jurisdictions. The Committee directs the President to submit the action plan to the Committee not later than 180 days after enactment of this act," the Homeland Security Budget says.

While the Senate Appropriations Committee's action is startling for FAS citizens it should come as no big surprise to FAS heads of state. Inouye pretty much spelled out his intention in his July 25 letter to FAS leadership. "I am aware of and appreciate the initial efforts within the FAS to reduce these Compact Impact costs. However, I am concerned that these efforts will not adequately address the challenge. I have therefore, as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, instructed my staff to develop other options to reduce these unanticipated and excessive costs associated with the Compacts. In addition to the three options recommended in the May 12th letter - revising and expanding the use of public education, establishment and expansion of dialysis treatment, and enhanced pre-screening of potential migrants - these further options may include, but are not limited to, establishing of an interagency process to develop and track cost reduction efforts, the expanding pre-screening for any criminal background issues to include health and other factors, and promulgating the regulations regarding the time and conditions of entry into the U.S. as provided under section 141(f)(2) of the Compact Act."

The Homeland Security budget says, "At present, it is estimated that affected areas of the United States are spending upwards of $200,000,000 annually for education, healthcare, and other services for FAS migrants, including high-cost treatments such as dialysis and chemotherapy. These impact costs are increasing annually. Public health officials are particularly concerned about the rate of certain diseases such as tuberculosis and Hanson's Disease which have a high incidence in Micronesia and among recent Compact migrants. There is also concern regarding growing social tensions in affected communities as local government agencies are forced to reduce the level of services to U.S.- citizen residents to offset the costs associated with the FAS migrants."

The relevant section in the US Homeland Security budget concludes, "The Committee notes that persons admitted to the United States as non immigrants pursuant to the Compact of Free Association Amendments Act of 2003 (Public Law 108-188) are subject to most, but not all, inadmissibility provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The Committee is concerned regarding the lack of enforcement of certain grounds of inadmissibility under the Compact such as the health-related and public charge grounds of inadmissibility and deportability. The Committee also is concerned about the growing negative budgetary impacts that the admission as non immigrants of nationals of the FAS is having on State, local, and Federal governments. The Committee directs DHS to report, within 90 days after the date of enactment of this act, on the Secretary's plan to issue regulations to implement all legally allowable grounds of inadmissibility under the Compact which apply to nationals from the FAS including, but not limited to, a feasibility and cost analysis of establishing a pre-screening process and promulgating regulations pursuant to the appropriate sections of Public Law 108-188 to establish a process, based on the existing Advance Permission to Enter process (I-192), to provide advanced permission for prospective travelers from the FAS to enter the United States. As part of this report, the Committee urges DHS to consider including modifications to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization to address the unique requirements of the population of individuals covered by Public Law 108-188."

The Senate version of the Homeland Security budget must be approved by the House of Representatives before it can be implemented.