Washington, DC – February 13, 2019….U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton along with Congressman Steve Womack introduced a resolution recognizing the strategic importance of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Marshallese who live in the United States—of whom the largest concentration in the continental U.S. reside in Springdale, Arkansas.
“This resolution acknowledges the unique partnership our country has with the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the need for this support to continue. In Arkansas, the Marshallese have integrated and assimilated into our communities while also preserving and sharing their unique customs and traditions. To better meet their needs it is necessary to better understand and account for this population calling the U.S. home, making the 2020 census crucial to this goal,” Boozman said.
“The large Marshallese community in Northwest Arkansas is a constant reminder of the close relationship our nation shares with the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Just as the people of Arkansas and our Marshallese neighbors continue to strengthen their friendships, so the United States ought to continue bolstering its own relations with their home republic. This resolution celebrates the bond our countries share and the need for our two nations to keep working together,” Cotton said.
“The Marshallese in Springdale and across Arkansas enrich our state. This resolution highlights the contributions of the Marshallese and the important relationship we have built and shared as a community. With the 2020 Census approaching, as well as the Compact of Free Association up for renewal in 2023, it is also critical that we accurately account for the Marshallese residing in the U.S. to better serve them and the cities they live in,” Womack said.
The U.S. has a unique relationship with the Marshall Islands. In the aftermath of World War II, the Marshall Islands was a U.S.-administered United Nations Trust Territory. In 1986, the Marshall Islands entered into a Compact of Free Association (COFA) with the U.S. and became a sovereign, “freely associated” state. Under the COFA, the U.S. is obligated to defend the Republic of the Marshall Islands against attack or threat of attack. The U.S. also maintains unique military basing rights in the Marshall Islands that extend through at least 2066. The security and sovereignty of the Marshall Islands is important to our country and to the thousands of Marshallese who have planted roots in Arkansas. The COFA agreement is up for renewal in 2023.
Since the 1980s, thousands of Marshallese have legally migrated to the United States. The 2010 census estimated 4,324 out of the 22,400 Marshallese individuals living in the U.S. resided in Arkansas. However, that population is actually estimated to be between 8,000 to 14,000. In addition to its embassy in Washington, D.C., the Republic of the Marshall Islands also has a consulate in Springdale.
The resolution has the support of the entire Arkansas Congressional delegation. The largest populations of Marshallese residing in the U.S. today live in Arkansas and Hawaii.
Congressman Steve Womack (AR-3) has represented Arkansas’s Third Congressional District since 2011. He serves as the Ranking Member of the House Committee on the Budget and is a member of the House Appropriations defense and transportation, housing and urban development subcommittees.