Amata Part of Bipartisan Effort Urging DHS Action on REAL ID for COFA Migrants
News Release from Office of Rep Aumua Amata, R-AS May 30, 2019
Washington, DC – Wednesday, Congresswoman Aumua Amata was one of seven Members to sign a bipartisan letter to the Department of Homeland Security regarding its administrative rules which place undue constraints on Compact of Freely Associated States migrants seeking to obtain REAL IDs.
The letter, led by Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), backs up the effort from last year’s successful bipartisan legislation – the REAL ID Act Modification for Freely Associated States Act, H.R. 3398, led by Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) and cosponsored by Congresswoman Amata, who supported the effort with a Statement for the Record.
“I was happy to cosponsor the REAL ID Act Modification for Freely Associated States, and I want to see this matter resolved completely for these legal residents of the U.S. in accordance with the legislative intent of Congress,” said Congresswoman Aumua Amata. “Thank you to Congresswoman Gabbard and Dean of the House Young for their ongoing leadership on this effort.”
“I was so pleased to see this important change to the law last year for U.S. residents from the Freely Associated States, among our nation’s closest friends and allies,” continued Congresswoman Amata. “I lived in the RMI for eight years, where I visited again recently, and all three nations play a key role in U.S. national defense and strategy.”
“The agreements the United States made through the Compact of Free Association are being undermined by current Department of Homeland Security rules, making it very hard for Compact migrants to get the identification they need to get a job, go to school, or travel. DHS rules contradict existing law, and must immediately be corrected,” said Congresswoman Gabbard. “This is an urgent situation impacting thousands of people who have legally come to the United States and are suffering the consequences of this bureaucratic mishap.”
“My bill, H.R. 3398 — which was previously signed into law — was designed to correct an egregious oversight which prevented citizens of the Freely Associated States (FAS) from obtaining anything more than a temporary ID or driver’s license. As a practical matter, this can hurt their ability to maintain long-term employment or engage in other lawful activities where they legally reside,” said Congressman Young. “When my legislation became law, it should have solved this issue and allowed FAS citizens to obtain REAL ID compliant identification.
“However, recent guidance put into place by the Department of Homeland Security has imposed additional burdens on these citizens,” Rep. Young continued. “FAS citizens who reside here are proud to call the United States and its territories home, and it is my hope that DHS will work with us to find a long-term solution for them in line with the intent of Congress."
“Our Compacts of Free Association with the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republics of Palau and the Marshall Islands are of key importance to all of our countries,” said Congressman Ed Case (D-Hawaii). “The Compacts permit citizens of the Freely Associated States to live and work in our country with a valid unexpired passport and documentation that they entered under the Compacts. It is directly contrary to the Compacts to impose onerous additional requirements that make it very difficult for them to access the basics of everyday life like driving and working.”
Background: The letter was signed by Congresswoman Aumua Amata (AS-at large), Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), Congressman Don Young (AK-at large), Congressman Ed Case (HI-01), Congressman Rob Bishop (UT-01), Congressman Michael F.Q. San Nicolas (GU-at large), and Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (CNMI-at large).
The 2005 REAL ID Act erroneously cited a defunct agreement that preceded the Compact of Free Association which allows the citizens of three nations, the Marshall Islands, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia to live and work in American states and territories without visas or employment documents, including thousands in Hawaii.
Last year’s bipartisan legislation provided the necessary fix to the REAL ID Act to ensure that COFA migrants would be eligible for the now required identification. The legislation was signed into law by President Trump.
However, April 2019 DHS guidance currently still requires COFA migrants to produce documents not required by their migration status in order to obtain their REAL IDs. REAL IDs are necessary for a range of things which have significant impact on the day-to-day lives of individuals including employment, travel, participation in federal programs, and entry to federal buildings.
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Close Allies of the FSM in the U.S. Congress React to Urgent Plea by President Panuelo, & Presidents Heine, Remengesau Jr., to Remedy the REAL ID Act Issue
News Release from FSM Government June 1, 2019
PALIKIR, Pohnpei—In a letter dated May 24 th , 2019, the Honorable Tulsi Gabbard, the Honorable Don Young, the Honorable Ed Case, the Honorable Rob Bishop, the Honorable Michael F.Q. San Nicolas, the Honorable Aumua Amata, and the Honorable Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan—all members of the U.S. Congress’ House of Representatives—formally requested the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to honor the intent of the REAL ID Act Modification for the Freely Associated States Act to assist citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), and the Republic of Palau (ROP) living in the United States in obtaining full-term drivers’ licenses. Specifically, the members requested that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security expedite applications for Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) and, through partnership with the U.S. Congress, seek to remove the requirement for citizens from the FSM, the RMI, and the ROP to require visas and/or EADs when seeking a REAL ID card.
“…It makes no sense for these citizens [from the FSM, the RMI, and the ROP] seeking a REAL ID card to be required to provide a visa or an EAD when the Compacts approved by law do not require them to have either,” the letter says.
The letter was prompted in part by recent meetings between several of these members of the U.S. Congress and His Excellency David W. Panuelo, President of the FSM, Her Excellency Dr. Hilda C. Heine, President of the RMI, and His Excellency Tommy E. Remengesau Jr., President of the ROP.
The Governments of the FSM, the RMI, and the ROP stand in solidarity in pursuit of fair and equal treatment for our citizens, both at home and abroad. The Government of the FSM acknowledges, and appreciates, the support from the U.S. Congress on this matter and others, and looks forward to a swift resolution to the REAL ID issue affecting the Nation’s citizens abroad.