Senators stress unique relationship, partnership in meetings with Republic of the Marshall Islands president ahead of measure’s passage
May 24 2019
WASHINGTON— The U.S. Senate passed a resolution introduced by Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) recognizing the strategic importance of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Marshallese who live in the United States.
Since the 1980s, thousands of Marshallese have legally migrated to the United States and Springdale, Arkansas is home to the largest population of Marshallese in the continental U.S.
“Arkansas and the Republic of the Marshall Islands have a special relationship given the number of Marshallese living in Northwest Arkansas. Recognizing and celebrating this community is important because it shows that our state, and the country, understands their unique role and expresses our commitment to work alongside them to improve their lives and serve their needs,” Boozman said.
“Just as the people of Arkansas and our Marshallese neighbors continue to strengthen their friendships, so the United States ought to continue bolstering our own relations with their home republic. Our resolution celebrates the bond our countries share and the need for our two nations to keep working together, and I’m pleased that the U.S. Senate agrees,” Cotton said.
The resolution, which commends the history and heritage of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and encourages a continued commitment to improve census data to better serve Marshallese living in the U.S., passed the Senate unanimously on May 23.
Prior to the measure’s passage, Boozman and Cotton both met with the Republic of the Marshall Islands President Dr. Hilda C. Heine in Washington where President Heine thanked them for their leadership on introducing the resolution. They also discussed the senators’ support and efforts to pass the REAL ID Act Modification for Freely Associated States Act – which became law in December 2018 and allows citizens of the Marshall Islands and other Pacific Freely Associated States who legally live in the U.S. to obtain a driver’s license or personal identification card – and other issues related to security and cooperation between the Marshall Islands, Arkansas and the federal government.
“We were honored to host President Heine for an opportunity to discuss how we can continue to strengthen the ties between Arkansas, the United States and the Marshall Islands,” the senators said. “Supporting the Marshallese living in Arkansas means working to ensure their quality of life here is suitable, but it also means making sure we are developing and maintaining a close relationship with the government in their home country. Our meetings were a timely occasion to build on that support and demonstrate our shared commitment to work cooperatively on issues of mutual interest and concern.”
The U.S. has a unique relationship with the Marshall Islands. In the aftermath of World War II, the Marshall Islands was a U.S.-administered United Nations Trust Territory. In 1986, the Marshall Islands entered into a Compact of Free Association (COFA) with the U.S. and became a sovereign, “freely associated” state. Under the COFA, the U.S. is obligated to defend the Republic of the Marshall Islands against attack or threat of attack. The U.S. also maintains unique military basing rights in the Marshall Islands that extend through at least 2066. The security and sovereignty of the Marshall Islands is important to our country and to the thousands of Marshallese who have planted roots in Arkansas. The COFA agreement is up for renewal in 2023.