U.S. Senators Tom Cotton and John Boozman Support Arkansas Marshallese Community

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and John Boozman (R-Arkansas) supported Senate passage of H.R. 3398, the REAL ID Act Modification for Freely Associated States Act. The legislation amends the REAL ID Act of 2005 to allow citizens of the Marshall Islands and other Pacific Freely Associated States who legally live in the U.S. to obtain a driver’s license or personal identification card. Due to the omission of the Freely Associated States in the 2005 REAL ID Act, Marshallese living in the U.S. have been denied anything more than a temporary ID or driver’s license valid only for one year, complicating their ability to maintain employment and open bank accounts. The Senate passed the bill yesterday by unanimous consent.

“Arkansas is home to thousands of Marshallese. Removing the unintended barrier to obtaining a driver’s license or personal ID card will help residents become even more productive members of the community. This legislation addresses this hurdle for the Marshallese community and other citizens of Freely Associated States living in the U.S. We strongly urge the president to sign this bill quickly into law,” the senators said.

“I offer my heartfelt gratitude to Senators Cotton and Boozman for their effectiveness in shepherding the REAL ID Modification for Freely Associated States Act (H.R.3398) through the United States Senate. Their strong leadership will enable our Marshallese citizens living in Arkansas and throughout the country to contribute fully to the communities that have embraced them. The Republic of the Marshall Islands is proud of our extraordinarily close relationship with the United States of America, and those of us who call Arkansas our second home deeply appreciate the opportunities made possible today by Senators Cotton and Boozman,” said Marshall Islands Ambassador Gerald Zackios.

In 1986, the U.S. and Marshall Islands entered into the Compact of Free Association, which allows Marshallese to live and work in the U.S. as non-immigrants.

Northwest Arkansas has the largest Marshallese population in the continental U.S. The 2010 census estimated 4,324 out of the 22,400 Marshallese individuals living in the U.S. resided in Arkansas. The Marshallese community in Arkansas has since grown to an estimated 8,000 to 14,000 individuals. In addition to its embassy in Washington, D.C., the Republic of the Marshall Islands also has a consulate in Springdale.