COFA citizens needlessly fear “deportation” under the upcoming Trump administration

Kpress Perspective - 18 NOV 2016

Whether or not it is an appropriate response, the world is still reeling from the results of the election that ended with Donald Trump as President Elect, a republican majority in both houses of Congress, and the potential that the US Supreme Court may also soon be controlled by Republicans. Many fear that in that political environment, President Elect Trump will be able to keep some of the promises and threats he made during his fairly brutal campaign for the Presidency.
Even before the election results were announced and Trump was announced as the winner, many FSM people living in the United States began commenting on social media that they now fear deportation after the new administration takes office because of Trump’s stated attitudes regarding immigration. Some were just kidding but some were very serious about their concerns.


For now there are other more likely things to be concerned about, for instance, his statement that he will cancel US involvement on the Paris Agreement on climate change. Perhaps it should be a concern to any Pacific islander that he has been a climate change denier and has unofficially selected one of the best-known climate skeptics to lead his U.S. EPA transition team. There are certainly all sorts of things for people of the FSM to be concerned about but at least for now, in my opinion, the immigration provisions of the Compact of Free Association (COFA) that allows COFA nation citizens to freely live and work in the US is not one of them.
When Congress adopted the Compact of Free Association with the FSM in 1986 that treaty was incorporated into US law. Perhaps you have heard the phrase, “that would take an act of Congress” used to describe things that are difficult and that would take a really long time. That plus a Presidential signature is what it takes to repeal a US law including the COFA treaty. I will grant that with a majority Republican Congress it will be far easier for President Elect Trump to get a bill through Congress than it ever was for President Obama but to the best of my knowledge even during his most hyperbolic tirades I never heard him say anything about ejecting people from the United States who are there legally and I never heard the subject of the COFA treaty come up as an issue during his campaign.
He did say that nations should pay for US protection arrangements and that leaves room for concern.
That’s not to say that Guam, or Hawaii or any other State or territory could not get Trump’s ear regarding the issue of Compact impact on those jurisdictions. That certainly could happen but even if it does, no matter what Trump’s proclivities may be, the US is just not set up to allow one man to make decisions unilaterally for the country. The built in system of checks and balances in the US government took a deep hit on November 8 but it is still in place. My own confidence in those balances has been just as eroded by this week’s election as it would have been if Hillary Clinton had won and Democrats had taken over both houses of Congress. But the checks and balances are still there. I have to have some optimism that system will help to moderate at least on some level, the desires of one person.
There is still an important military strategic value to the COFA nations for the US which has strong defense agreements with the COFA nations. I would like to think that cooler heads would prevail before the US would throw out that strategic advantage in the Asia- Pacific region.
Contrary to the beliefs of many people, the Compact is an agreement in perpetuity that will NOT be expiring in 2023 when the money is currently scheduled to stop flowing.
Yes, it is true that three FSM Senators introduced a measure to terminate the Compact by 2018 but that measure seemed only to impact the news and not much else. It was introduced more than a year ago and Congress has taken no official action on it since its introduction. It’s still just sitting there gathering dust and mold.
If either the FSM or the United States decides that they will sit down and renegotiate as the Compact as amended in 2003 allows, I suppose it’s possible that one of the bargaining chips could be the immigration provisions. But neither side has given any kind of official notice that they want to go back to the negotiating table. Even if it did become a bargaining chip the FSM would certainly negotiate for a transition period for its citizens to decide if they want to take another route to legally remain in the US. Even under a Trump administration I cannot fathom anything like an overnight cancellation of the Compact treaty and order for deportation.
Perhaps I am an optimist who should be writing under the nom de plume of Pollyanna.
Oh, never fear, there are plenty of other things to worry about like the possibility for increasing discrimination in the US. Be vigilant, yes. Watch, and keep yourselves informed, but you are legally living in the United States. As long as you are law abiding you can’t be deported. That has not changed after Mr. Trump was elected and I believe it won’t likely change any time soon if at all.
Bill Jaynes
Managing Editor