Womack Meets with the President of the Marshall Islands
Washington, May 23, 2019
Washington, DC – May 23, 2019….Congressman Steve Womack (AR-3) today met with the President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Hilda C. Heine, to reaffirm mutual commitments to the Compact of Free Association (COFA) and recognize the strategic importance of a strong Indo-Pacific region. Arkansas boasts the largest Marshallese population in the continental U.S.
Congressman Womack said, “The strong Marshallese community in Springdale highlights the unique partnership our nations have shared and built. This meeting gave us an opportunity to reinforce our joint efforts and shared objectives. We will continue to work to enhance diplomatic and community ties, strengthen security cooperation, and support our allies in the Indo-Pacific region.”
During the meeting, Womack and President Heine talked about the Compact of Free Association, which is set to expire in FY2023. In the aftermath of World War II, the Marshall Islands became a U.S.-administered United Nations Trust Territory. Under the COFA, the U.S. is obligated to defend the Republic of the Marshall Islands against attack and maintains important military basing rights in the area. 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. Other topics of note included security, trade, economic development, and census issues.
President Heine also thanked the Congressman for his efforts to support the Marshallese community in Arkansas and create regional security, stability, and prosperity. Specifically cited was Womack’s work to successfully pass the REAL ID Act Modification for Freely Associated States (H.R. 3398) – which was signed into law by President Trump – and introduction of a resolution recognizing the strategic importance of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Marshallese who live in the United States.
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 and 14,000. In addition to its embassy in Washington, D.C., the Republic of the Marshall Islands also has a consulate in Springdale.
President Trump also met with President Heine and other leaders from the Indo-Pacific region this week. It marked the first time that the Presidents of the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia have been invited to the White House by the President of the United States.
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.