U.S. Senator John Boozman and 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—the largest concentration of whom in the continental U.S. reside in Springdale, Arkansas.
“The Marshallese are an important part of the fabric of our state and nation. In Arkansas, the Marshallese have integrated themselves in the daily life sharing with us their customs and traditions. We have a unique partnership with the Republic of the Marshall Islands and we need to maintain this essential relationship,” Boozman said.
“This resolution highlights the contribution the Marshallese population makes in Springdale and across our entire nation. With the 2020 Census approaching, as well as the Compact of Free Association up for renewal in 2023, it is critical that we accurately account for the Marshallese residing in the U.S. to better serve them and the communities 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 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. 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 estimated to be 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 and both U.S. Representatives from Hawaii, Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI). The largest populations of Marshallese residing in the U.S. today live in Hawaii and Arkansas.