The U.S. Senate passed a resolution on Thursday recognizing the strategic importance of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Marshallese who live in the United States.
The resolution, introduced by Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR), 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.,” according to a press release from Boozman’s office.
The measure passed the Senate unanimously.
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,” said Boozman.
“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.”
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. They 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.
In 1986, the Republic of the Marshall Islands entered into a Compact of Free Association (COFA) with the U.S. and became a sovereign, “freely associated” state. The United States is obligated to defend the Republic of the Marshall Islands against attack or threat of attack, and the U.S. military maintains basing rights there until at least 2066. Under the treaty, Marshall Islanders can travel and work freely in the United States without a visa.