Over the next few weeks a team of enumerators working for the U.S. Census Bureau will be going door to door throughout the island to count the number of compact migrants living on Guam.
The 2018 Compact of Free Association Enumeration is required by law. The count has been taken every five years since 2003.
Andromache Mason is one of two U.S. Census Bureau employees on island supervising the survey. She is a mathematical statistician.
"We have scientifically selected a sample," Mason said. "We are measuring population shifts since the last survey to get an estimate of the number of migrants."
About 5,000 housing units on Guam and in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands have been selected for this voluntary survey.
Mason declined to say which neighborhoods are being surveyed. The results are kept strictly confidential.
"We are not allowed to share response information with anyone," Mason said, adding the only information enumerators provide to the U.S. Department of the Interior at the end of the survey is the number of migrants in each jurisdiction.
"It's to preserve confidentiality, so people know that when they do respond to us we do not share that information," she said. That helps ensure that "we get accurate information."
$30M split between 4 jurisdictions
The results of the survey determine how much each of the four affected jurisdictions get from the $30 million that is set aside by Congress each year to help cover the costs of services provided to compact migrants.
Guam is home to the largest number of compact migrants. As a result, Guam has received the largest share of compact-impact funding over the years – about $14.9 million in 2017. Hawaii is a close second, receiving just over $12 million, followed by the CNMI and American Samoa.
The last survey, conducted in 2013, estimated roughly 17,000 Guam residents are citizens of one of the three COFA states – the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
Even though compact migrant numbers have grown, the amount of compact-impact funding has not changed since 2003. Every jurisdiction has complained that $30 million divided among them is insufficient compared with the cost of the services they provide.
Monica Guerrero, a planner at the Bureau of Statistics and Plans, compiles the COFA impact report every year. This past year, she said, the estimated cost of providing services to compact migrants on Guam was about $140 million.
The Census Bureau is working with the Bureau of Statistics and Plans and the University of Guam to carry out the survey.
There are only seven questions. The survey asks for name, age, phone number, place of birth, date of arrival on Guam, marital status and number of individuals living in the household.
Twenty-five enumerators have been hired, each of whom is paid $25 for a completed and verified survey. All enumerators have been vetted to ensure their trustworthiness, according to Census officials.
The surveys began last week and will be ongoing through mid-November. The results will be submitted to the Interior Department by the summer of 2019.