The U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. State Department must put in a more meaningful effort to advocate for Guam as the main host of regional migrants.
This advocacy should include making sure that the cost of the earned income tax credit-related tax refunds for the migrants shift from the very tiny pocket of the government of Guam to Uncle Sam's.
GovGuam has been paying tens of millions of dollars a year – out of its own pocket – for the EITC-based tax refunds for citizens from the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau.
Guam is the largest host of migrants from these island nations out of four U.S. jurisdictions that include Hawaii, the Northern Marianas and American Samoa.
Guam hosts more than 18,000 of the regional migrants, while Hawaii hosts the second-highest amount with more than 16,000. Although the U.S. citizen children and grandchildren of these immigrants should no longer be counted as causing an "impact" to public services on Guam, the federal government should treat Guam the same way it does Hawaii when it comes to helping the host jurisdiction shoulder the cost of the migration.
As Del. Michael San Nicolas recently said in two congressional hearings, the U.S. Treasury reimburses Hawaii for the cost of EITC-related tax refund payments to regional migrants from the freely associated states, but it doesn't do so for Guam.
When San Nicolas brought up this very same issue at the Interior's budget hearing last week, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt responded: "It seems like an anomaly that maybe just has not been thought of. ... I will promise we will work with you and work with Treasury. ... That's our commitment."
After decades of insufficient funding for Guam, we hope the Interior pulls through this time.
In April, during a Financial Services Committee discussion with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, he acknowledged Guam's "very technical tax issues." Mnuchin told San Nicolas to "follow up" with Treasury regarding EITC.
The issue also should be brought up by the State Department officials who are familiar with the Compact agreements between the United States and Palau, the FSM and the Marshall Islands, which have allowed the wide open migration into Guam.
The White House recently announced it would host – for the first time – the presidents of the three island nations in what is perceived as part of U.S. moves to cozy up to the island nations and counter China's territorial expansions in the Pacific and within Philippine territory, among other areas.
When the three island nations' presidents are hosted by the White House, they also have an obligation to bring up ways for the U.S. government to better help Guam financially as the host of the largest number of migrants from the freely associated states.
The U.S. government's failure to adequately pay Guam for the impacts of the regional migration – as a result of the U.S. agreements with the FAS states for defense purposes – cannot be ignored.
Our island doesn't have a seat at this table in this White House meeting but it's only fair that Guam's needs are brought up because both sides do use Guam for their own respective gains.