Republic of the Marshall Islands citizens living in this country will be the beneficiaries of a Concurrent Resolution approved May 23 by the U.S. Senate. The resolution, supported by the Springdale Chamber of Commerce and Marshall Islands Ambassador Gerald M. Zackios, recognizes the history, heritage and strategic importance of the Marshallese population residing in the United States.
The resolution encourages a more accurate count of the Marshallese population in the next census so that Springdale and other communities where Marshallese live can acquire additional resources to better serve these residents.
It also creates the potential for providers of public education, healthcare, safety and transportation to seek discretionary agency funds so that they might improve the services they currently offer Marshallese citizens residing in their community. An estimated 10,000 Marshallese, including 2,900 students enrolled in the Springdale School District, reside here.
“The Chamber has worked aggressively for months, in partnership with our Congressional Delegation, to gain approval of this resolution,” said Perry Webb, Chamber president and CEO. “With this resolution, we hope that grant requests from entities like the City of Springdale, the Springdale School District and those providing health services to our Marshallese residents, will receive federal agency consideration. These entities are currently providing services for our Marshallese residents but have to underwrite those costs themselves.
“The Marshallese are valuable contributors to the quality of life in Springdale,” Webb added. “It is our hope that this resolution will allow our community to do an even better job of meeting their unique needs. We are most grateful to Senator John Boozman for introducing the resolution, and for the strong support of Congressman Steve Womack and Ambassador Zackios throughout this process.”
“The resolution will go a long way to enable our citizens to participate productively and contribute to issues of mutual benefit. This is a welcomed acknowledgement of the special and unique relationship that exists between the two communities,” said Gerald M. Zackios, Marshall Islands ambassador to the United States. “I wish to convey sincere gratitude to the Springdale Chamber of Commerce, the Springdale School District, and the leadership of Springdale for their hard work to develop this significant resolution that recognizes the important contributions made by the Marshallese community in Springdale.”
An estimated one third of the population of the Republic of the Marshall Islands has relocated to the United States. Marshallese living in the United States pay federal and state taxes but are not eligible for benefits under Medicare or Medicaid – a complicating issue for a community faced with serious health issues including some of the highest documented rates of type 2 diabetes of any population group in the world.
“The Marshallese are such an important part of the fabric of our community in Springdale and across Arkansas, said Congressman Steve Womack. “This resolution highlights the great relationship we have built and supports our unique and strong partnership with the Republic of the Marshall Islands. With today’s passage in the Senate, Congress is one step closer to recognizing the social, economic, and cultural contributions that we have long appreciated as a district.”
The Compact of Free Association between the United States and the Republic of the Marshall Islands authorizes economic assistance through Federal grants and programs to Marshallese citizens and allows them to reside, work and study in the U.S. without a visa. They may also serve in the Armed Forces of the United States. The 1986 Compact, amended in 2003, is not up for renewal until 2023.