WASHINGTON, D.C. (KAIT) -Two Arkansas U.S. senators are stepping up in support of Marshallese.
Republican senators Tom Cotton and John Boozman supported the Senate passage of H.R. 3398, the REAL ID Act Modification for Freely Associated States Act.
This piece of 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 this 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.
This has complicated their ability to maintain employment and open bank accounts.
The Senate passed the bill yesterday by unanimous consent. Marshall Islands Ambassador Gerald Zackios said he was grateful for the involvement and support from the two senators. "I offer my heartfelt gratitude to Senators Cotton and Boozman for their effectiveness in shepherding H.R.3398 through the United States Senate,” Zackios said. “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."
The U.S. and Marshall Islands entered into the Compact of Free Association in 1986 to allow Marshallese to live and work in the U.S. as non-immigrants. Northwest Arkansas currently has the largest Marshallese population in the country.
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.