CIFA for COFA Citizens
CIFA for COFA Citizens
Why this petition matters
On May 28, 2021, the Compact Impact Fairness Act (CIFA) was reintroduced to the House of Representatives.
In summary, CIFA would make COFA citizens eligible for federal benefits, including: FEMA disaster relief benefits, CHIP, SNAP, SSI, TANF, etc…
This Act is important because the GAO Report that was shared by the U.S. government identifies word-for-word:
“More than 94,000 compact migrants—that is, citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia (Micronesia), the Republic of the Marshall Islands (Marshall Islands), and the Republic of Palau (Palau) as well as their U.S.-born children and grandchildren younger than 18 years—live and work in the United States and its territories, according to Census Bureau data. Data from Census Bureau surveys covering the periods 2005-2009 and 2013-2017 and an enumeration in 2018 show that the combined compact migrant populations in U.S. areas grew by an estimated 68 percent, from about 56,000 to about 94,000. Historically, many compact migrants have lived in Hawaii, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). From 2013 to 2018, an estimated 50 percent of compact migrants lived on the U.S. mainland” (gao.gov, 2018).
For additional context, many Micronesians are COFA citizens. The COFA is the Compact of Free Association which is a unique relationship between the U.S. and three island nations (the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Marshall Islands & Palau). The COFA was created for various reasons including and in regard to the current state of our island nations due to the 67 bombs that were dropped on islands for nuclear testing during WWII, invading indigenous lands for battle, and using Micronesian lands for military forces without consent from the natives. The islands were selected for battle as it was in strategic placement in the Pacific Ocean. The indigenous people of these islands, today, are still suffering from health complications from the aftermath of nuclear testing that was conducted, colonial diets, and intergenerational trauma brought on by the listed events.
This unique relationship has been one of layered complexity. The Compact of Free Association allows the citizens of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau free entry to the U.S. and the right to work without a visa, but there is no pathway to permanent residency or U.S. citizenship. In the coming decades, climate change will force many to seek higher ground. The mean elevation of the Marshall Islands is 2 meters above sea level, making it particularly susceptible to sea level rise.
In 1996, under the Clinton Administration, a bill was re-signed that left COFA citizens out of eligibility from the programs listed above. Micronesians continue to organize all over the U.S. to prepare visits to Capitol Hill for advocacy and find other ways to express the needed eligibility to benefits for COFA citizens. This legislation has immobilized our community. It is important for Representatives to support this move towards equity and being a voice for the voiceless. The fact is, employed COFA citizens pay both federal and state payroll taxes, and all participants in the economy pay the state general excise and use tax. Ongoing policy is in support of COFA taxation without representation.
Cool fact! This is a bipartisan bill! Members of Congress who have openly been in support of CIFA include:
Steve Womack, U.S. Representative for Arkansas (R)
Michael San Nicoloas, Representative for Guam (D)
Aumua Aumua Coleman Redwagen, Representative for American Samoa (R)
Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, Congressman of Northern Mariana Islands (D)
Mazie Hirono, Senator of Hawaii (D)
Ed Case, Congressman for Hawaii (D)
Subsequently, passing CIFA for COFA citizens would be an asset to American needs. COFA citizens continue to fight in U.S. armed forces (and at higher rates per capita than U.S. citizens), join the American workforce, and contribute to the thread of American society.
Ultimately, please sign this petition today to let our politicians know you support the importance of passing the CIFA bill.