Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-GU) has introduced federal legislation to extend eligibility for national service programs to citizens of the Freely Associated States who reside in the United States and are otherwise eligible for these programs. Specifically her bill would amend Section 5 of the National and Community Service Act of 1990 to include citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands who reside in the U.S. on the list of eligible individuals. The current statute only allows U.S. citizens, nationals, or lawful permanent residents to participate in these programs.
Because of the unique relationship between the U.S. and the Freely Associated States, FAS citizens are not required to obtain a visa or become lawful permanent residents to enter and reside in the U.S. Congresswoman Bordallo believes that FAS citizens who live in the U.S. should be allowed to participate in national service programs, similar to their ability to serve in our military or receive student financial aid. Her bill would fix this disparity and ensure that those who wish to participate in these programs are not disqualified simply because they do not meet the citizenship guidelines.
The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) of Hawaii and Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan (Ind-MP) of the Northern Mariana Islands.
“Citizens from the Freely Associated States who reside in the U.S. should be allowed to participate in national community service programs, just as they are allowed to serve in our military or receive student aid to further their education,” said Congresswoman Bordallo. “It is only fair that if we can allow FAS citizens to serve in our military and protect our way of life, then we should also allow them to serve our local communities through community service. I was disappointed when last year several FAS citizens who had already begun their service projects were removed from the AmeriCorps program simply because they did not meet the citizenship eligibility requirements. These individuals are role models who want to help our community, and they should be allowed to do so through community service.”
I appreciate the leadership of Senator B.J. Cruz for championing this issue in the Guam Legislature and working with me to develop this bill. I also appreciate the support of my colleagues, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Congressman Kilili Sablan from the Northern Mariana Islands, who are cosponsors of this bill. I look forward to working with them to move this bill through the legislative process and having it enacted it into law.”
“This legislation would help tens of thousands of COFA migrants living in the United States, including more than 12,000 in Hawaii, gain valuable job training and skills, and give back to our community, by participating in programs that provide disaster relief services, educational opportunities, environmental restoration, and health care assistance to communities across the country,” said Gabbard, who introduced legislation to reinstate Medicaid eligibility for COFA migrants last year. Bordallo is an original cosponsor of Gabbard’s bill.
“I thank Congresswoman Bordallo for identifying this problem in Guam and offering a solution that will help young people from the Freely Associated States living in the Northern Mariana Islands, Hawaii, and throughout the United States,” said Sablan.