31 Mar 2008

US burdened by migrants from former Pacific territories

2:13 pm on 31 March 2008

A Hawaii state senator has told Marshall Islands and U.S. officials in Majuro that American states are footing a bill of hundreds of millions of dollars for services to migrants from U.S.-affiliated islands in the Pacific

Kalani English says the U.S. federal government is supposed to pick up the tab, but has failed to do so.

He said nearly one-third of the 70,000 Marshall Islanders and about 25 percent of the 107,000 Micronesians now live in America.

Mr English said they were escaping stagnant economies, dismal public schools and limited health care by using visa-free entry privileges under a Compact of Free Association to move to locations as diverse as Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii to rural northwest Arkansas.

These arrivals have sparked increasing debate in the U.S. about how to pay for the services.

U.S. states are particularly complaining about the high costs of treating contagious diseases such as tuberculosis, sexually transmitted infections and leprosy.