As Guam hosts migrants from the freely associated states, the debate over fair compensation for our island community continues. A recently released count of FAS migrants further complicates this debate.
A survey of migrants from the Federates States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau who live on Guam raises concerns.
There are 18,874 FAS migrants on Guam, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2018 Estimates of Compact of Free Association Migrants. The count shows an increase of nearly 10% from five years ago.
Those numbers may be misleading because the survey includes the children and grandchildren of FAS migrants who are U.S. citizens.
An inaccurate picture of the migration is an issue because host jurisdictions, such as Guam, use those numbers to ask for federal money for the impact on public services.
The count may be not only misleading but also insulting to the U.S. citizen children of the migrants who form a significant part of Guam’s labor force.
Some of them hold jobs in the construction, food and beverage, hospitality and retail industries that other island residents do not want. Such jobs may be low-paying, but they are important to the success of businesses throughout the island. Without workers to fill job openings in certain sectors, the local economy would be in a worse predicament than it is now.
Those children who were born and raised on Guam also contribute to the community in other ways. As professionals, they offer their knowledge and skills in a variety of fields. Many also give back to the community by volunteering for cleanups and other events.
It’s imperative that the federal government sort out its agreements with the freely associated states and the host jurisdictions because of the short- and long-term consequences. The federal government must ensure fair and timely compensation to the host jurisdictions, especially as the regional migration increases.
The survey methodology makes us wonder if the federal government truly understands how the Compacts of Free Association continue to shape not only regional migration but also citizenship in Micronesia. As the survey shows, the U.S. government must realize who counts as an American.