Negotiating a Compact Termination

Some Facts:

  • On November 19, Senator Figir of the State of Yap introduced a resolution, “requesting the President of the [FSM] to terminate the amended Compact of Free Association with the [USA]…”.
  • Senators Robson Romolow and Bonsiano Nethon of Chuuk State co-sponsored the resolution.
  • This is not the first time such a resolution has been introduced. A similar resolution was introduced by then senator Peter Christian in 2011 (17-61). The current resolution is an almost word for word duplicate of that earlier resolution.
  • Under Article 4, Section 441 in the Amended Compact, the process of terminating the Compact needs to be mutually agreed upon by both parties (USA & FSM), "respective [of] constitutional processes".  If the FSM means to terminate the Compact it must go through a vote/plebiscite. If the FSM does not wish to go through a plebiscite they can propose an alternative process, as long as it does not undermine the constitution. However that alternative process must be agreed upon by both parties.

Some Fiction:

  • The Compact of Free Association will end by 2023.

    Response: The compact is not scheduled to end by 2023. Only the financial section of the Compact is scheduled to end. If the Compact is not formally terminated, it has no expiration date. (Note: renegotiation for renewing the financial portion is possible).

  • If the Compact is terminated all FSM citizens living in the USA and its territories will be deported back to the FSM.

    Response: This is not a given. An end to the Compact does not necessarily mean deportation. It is possible that the FSM citizens living in the US and its territories will be granted amnesty and allowed to reside. Ultimately it depends on the policymakers of that time and it may differ between States and Territories. Although it is unlikely that all FSM citizens will be repatriated it is still very possible. The US currently deports an estimated 200,000 unwanted non-citizens annually. However, those deported were criminals and/or entered illegally. I must reiterate that that decision will be in the hands of the sitting politicians.

  • The FSM is in negotiations with the nation of China to create a similar Compact agreement between the FSM and China.

    Response: There is no proof of this. However, similar agreements can be made (see Article II of the Amended Compact) since the FSM is a sovereign nation. Such an arrangement with the nation of China can not interfere with the existing Compact between the USA, namely the USA's military presence and use of the region. At the moment, with the current arrangement that we have with the USA, the FSM can have diplomatic relations with any country so long as it does not interfere with the COFA.

  • If congress votes in favor of the resolution the Compact will be terminated.

    Response: No. Under current guidelines the Compact will need to go through a plebiscite. The vote will require that at least three of the four states vote 75% in favor of. That means that at least three states each will need a 75% favorable vote.

Noteworthy:

 (click image to redirect to fsm congress website)

(click image to redirect to fsm congress website)

  • A resolution is not a law and differs from a bill. In many cases, a resolution is used to publicly express a political opinion. Such resolutions are often used to gauge the political atmosphere of specific topics and to make public the standing of politicians on such topics.
  • Compact funding is scheduled to end by 2023. This does not mean the end of the Compact of Free Association but the funding that comes with it.
  • Former FSM president John Haglelgam has also publicly stated his opinion in favor of terminating the Compact:

    "I’m one of those that feel we should do that. Terminate the compact of free association in totality..." - John Haglelgam
     
  • During Compact renegotiation in 2003, members of the FSM congress expressed a general disapproval of the renewed Compact:

    "Will we sacrifice our freedom, our sovereignty, our very dignity? Will we trade these priceless ideals for more televisions to undermine our culture, for more cars to clog and choke our roads, for more imported foods that poison us? Are we really so shortsighted? So weak? I say no." - Congressman Figir (2003).
     
  • Under the current Compact, the United States can deport or restrict admission into the USA any FSM citizen that: "cannot show that he or she has sufficient means of support in the United States"(see Article IV (f), of the Amended Compact). That option is not exercised but officials in the State of Hawaii have cited it as an option in the past, and have restated it recently.
     
  • The Department of Homeland Security is conducting a study to prescreen COFA migrants before they enter into the USA and its territories. The aim of the screening process it to determine admissibility into the USA.
     
  • The Joint Economic Management Committee (JEMCO) oversees management and accountability of Compact funds. The committee includes two members from the FSM and three from the US. Because of the three-to-two disparity the US membership has been making decisions that have greatly benefited the United States.

Theories:

  • Since the Amended Compact was not approved by a plebiscite, congress can terminate the Compact.

    Response: The Amended Compact states a process for termination under Section 441 which does not include a congressional vote.
     
  • The resolution, like the previous resolution presented by then senator Peter Christian is just political posturing. A political tactic that is more for show rather than substance. 

    Response: This is not far-fetched. It seems that whenever COFA negotiations are scheduled a member of congress will state the possibility of ending the association. The resolution can be looked at as a bluff to remind the United States that it does not have bridled control of the FSM.

Final thoughts:

  • Regardless if the resolution is political posturing or a bold stance from our congressional leaders, it must be stated how the news media has fallen in love with stories on "COFA migrants". From The Huffington Post, to more localized news medias (HNN, PDN, Honolulu Civil Beat). It may be a reflection of world news and the United States' current views on immigration. It could also be related to anti COFA migrants sentiments being perpetuated by news organizations. Have news agencies adopted the "COFA immigrant" to be their media "boogeyman"? (A topic for a later discussion).
  • What ever the case, headlines on this specific topic such as, "Migration to Guam, U.S. defense implications at stake as FSM cozies up to China", or "FSM citizens to lose immigration status if Compact ends", seem to promote fear. Fear based media is "click-bate". Or news with catchy headlines that aims to increase website visits.
  • Writers need to understand that their works have serious implications. I've spoken with several FSM citizens who are considering a change in citizenship, moving their families out of the FSM, and petitioning to remove certain congressmen (through violence). You only need to scroll down to the comments section of the articles I've linked to get a sense of public reaction.
  • Other than to inform, news media is supposed to inspire, not incite. Yes, readers must be cautious about what they read, but writers must also be thoughtful about what they write.