Written by 11:07 pm Travel

How the Right to Live within the U.S. Compares to Having U.S. Citizenship

Residents of the three freely associated states (FAS) are allowed to travel, work, and study freely in the US with no visa. At present, they should not even required to have a passport, though it is feasible that this requirement will probably be reinstated through the current renegotiations of the compacts of free association (COFAs).

America can refuse to permit entry to a FAS migrant who has a communicable disease or a criminal record, or who’s prone to turn out to be a public charge — that’s, to require federal support. The U.S. also has the right to set terms on entry and length of stay, though at present there are not any limits.

FAS migrants in the US have uneven access to federal nutrition and income security programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Social Security Income (SSI) program, regardless that access to those programs was a part of the unique COFA agreements. Migrants were also denied access to Medicaid from 1996-2020, with disastrous results when COVID hit.

Rules about access to state programs are different in each state. Under the tenth amendment, states are allowed to set their very own regulations on these matters. For instance, in Arkansas, the state with the biggest variety of Marshallese COFA migrants, children from the Marshall Islands are eligible for state healthcare advantages, but adults should not; in 15 states and in Guam and Puerto Rico, COFA migrants receive no healthcare coverage. One other example is in-state tuition: in some states, COFA migrants are subject to different rules for this profit compared with U.S. residents. Guam has ruled that U.S. residents have precedence over migrants from the freely associated states for housing assistance.

As noncitizens, FAS migrants cannot vote in the US, although they do pay taxes.

After which there’s the matter of the executive hassles, like getting a driver’s license, especially when clerks behind the counter at official offices don’t know in regards to the rights for COFA migrants, and even what a freely associated state is.

They will be deported. Free transit within the U.S. isn’t similar to U.S. citizenship or state citizenship.

Lessons for Puerto Rico

If Puerto Rico were to hunt its own sovereignty in free association with the US, it is probably going that the experience can be just like that of current COFA nations. These realities on the bottom haven’t been recognized by supporters of this selection after they discuss a sovereign free association for Puerto Rico.

The Department of Justice has expressed concern that voters will imagine that free association for Puerto Rico will probably be similar to the “enhanced commonwealth” long promised to Puerto Rico voters, which has been described as unconstitutional by all three branches of the federal government.

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