U.S. compacts with the freely associated states (FAS)--the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the Marshall Islands, and Palau--permit FAS citizens to migrate to the United States and its territories (U.S. areas) without regard to visa and labor certification requirements. Thousands of FAS citizens have migrated to U.S. areas (compact migrants)--particularly to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Guam, and Hawaii, which are defined as affected jurisdictions. In fiscal year 2004, Congress appropriated $30 million annually for 20 years to help defray affected jurisdictions' costs for migrant services (compact impact). Though not required, affected jurisdictions can report these costs to the Department of the Interior (Interior), which allocates the $30 million as impact grants in proportion to compact migrant enumerations required every 5 years. This report (1) describes compact migration, (2) reviews enumeration approaches, (3) evaluates impact reporting, and (4) reviews Interior grants related to compact impact. GAO reviewed U.S. agency data, recent enumerations, impact reports, and grants and it also interviewed officials, employers, and migrants in the affected jurisdictions.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of the Interior||In order to select the most appropriate approach for its next enumeration of compact migrants, the Secretary of the Interior should fully consider the strengths and limitations of its preliminary approach for 2013, weighing the cost of the approach with the need for data that will be fair as well as useful to the affected jurisdictions.|
|Department of the Interior||In order to strengthen its ability to collect, evaluate, and transmit reliable information to Congress, the Secretary of the Interior should disseminate guidelines to the affected jurisdictions that adequately address concepts essential to producing reliable impact estimates, and call for the affected jurisdictions to apply these guidelines when developing compact impact reports.|
|Department of the Interior||In order to promote the most effective use of compact impact grants, the Secretary of the Interior should work with the affected jurisdictions to evaluate the current use of grant funds and consider alternative uses of these grants to reduce compact impact.|
|Department of the Interior||In order to help mitigate compact impact and better assist FSM and Marshall Islands citizens who migrate to the United States, the Secretary of the Interior should work with the U.S.-FSM and U.S.-Marshall Islands joint management committees to consider uses of sector grants that would address the concerns of FSM and Marshallese migrants and the affected jurisdictions.|