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[Pacific Daily News] Compact benefits regional migrants

 

Several regional migrants spoke about the positive impacts federal agreements have had in their lives during a recent panel discussion.

Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands can freely enter the United States under their island nations’ compacts of free association; Guam and Hawaii are their top destinations of choice.

A panel discussion with regional migrants was held after the University of Guam Richard Flores Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center’s launch of “Children of Chuuk Lagoon, a 21st Century Analysis of Life and Learning on Romonum Island,” by Mary Spencer last Thursday.

Ansito Walter, former governor of Chuuk and UOG associate professor of public administration, said in his village in Chuuk there have been a lot of positive changes. He estimates about 30 percent of his village’s residents migrated out of Chuuk.

Compact benefits

Before the compact, many of the villagers lived in thatched-roof housing or wood-and-tin homes. Today, many people live in concrete homes while few live in thatched-roof homes. And now most people have motorboats to travel between the islands instead of just one or two families, he said.

“Do I like the compact? Yes. It’s making a lot of difference,” he said.

Walter said during his time as governor, he saw many great schools built because of the funds from the compact.

Debbie Retuyan, a legislative policy analyst with a law degree from Western Michigan’s Thomas M. Cooley Law School, said the compact has helped many people get an education, both on and off islands like Chuuk.

“In my own life, I’ve come to recognize and realize and appreciate all the opportunities that the compact affords us,” she said.

Compact funds have helped build schools in Chuuk and had also helped migrants attend school in the U.S., she said.

She said the compact helps migrants leave home to get knowledge and experience, which they can bring back to their islands. The compact also can help fortify the islands so they can become places where people will want to come back and live a sustainable life, she said.

“If we are able to figure it out and have the compact truly successful, it would help out migration from the islands,” Retuyan said.

Rosetrina Elidok, a UOG pre-nursing major and Guam Women’s Chamber of Commerce scholarship recipient, said she’s been very fortunate to have been born and raised in Guam and attend school here. She said a big difference for her getting educated here rather than in Chuuk, is not having to take a boat to attend a school. Some islands don’t have schools that go past middle school, so they have to send their students to other islands.

“I’m very privileged to grow up here and be educated here,” she said.

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