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Feds asked to bear more cost of Pacific island migrants

President Barack Obama will have to come up with an action plan to address the economic impact of Pacific migration in Hawaii and other states and U.S. territories.

The requirement is part of an appropriations bill approved by Congress. Within 45 days, the president must convene a committee to develop the action plan.

Under the federal Compact of Free Association, the United States provides economic assistance to the Pacific islands and migrants from the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau can come to the U.S. and its territories and are eligible for certain programs. The U.S., in return, has military access to the Pacific islands. The U.S. previously conducted Cold War-era weapons testing in the region.

Hawaii has estimated that the cost of providing education, health care and other services to Pacific migrants was $115 million in 2010, up from $32 million in 2002. Members of the state’s congressional delegation have sought help from the federal government to cover migration costs.

“While we continue to abide by the conditions outlined by our existing agreement with the governments of Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands we can no longer absorb the brunt of caring for their communities alone,” U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, said in a statement.

“We stand by our neighbors in the Pacific residing in Hawaii but we need increased federal funds and more support from their resident governments to see to it that they continue to receive the quality of education and health care enjoyed by all Americans.  We have long enjoyed a fruitful and cooperative relationship through the compact and look forward to expanding and improving that relationship.”

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