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Trump Order Could Change the Rules for Freely Associated States

President Trump is planning a new executive order on the subject of immigration, according to drafts shared by the Washington Post. The major focus of these new drafts: to “ensure the US does not welcome individuals who are likely to become or have become a burden on taxpayers.”

The U.S. has for a century required most immigrants to prove that they will not need government assistance. Refugees are an exception, since they are eligible for government support initially as they get acclimated to the U.S. The new immigration order would change that.

The Free Associated States of Palau, Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands are not specifically mentioned in the drafts, but Radio New Zealand pointed out that they could be affected by the order.

The Northern Mariana Islands are mentioned in the context of “the problem of birth tourism.” This is the practice of visiting the United States while pregnant and staying to ensure that the baby is born in the United States and therefore is a citizen by birth.

One aspect of the new order which could affect people from the Free Associated States living in the U.S. is the directive to find non-citizens living in the States and accepting government assistance. Only about 9 percent of the people on government assistance are not citizens, according to the Washington Post article, but the drafts ask for specific reports on the subject from the Census Bureau and state an intention to “identify and remove, as expeditiously as possible, any alien who has become a public charge.”  Individuals from the FAS can be deported from the U.S. for any reasons applying to other non-citizens.

Another part of the order which could affect the FAS is the call to “review all regulations that allow foreign nationals to work in the United States.” While the drafts do not include directives to deport non-citizens working in the U.S., they do imply an intention to reserve jobs as much as possible for U.S. citizens.

As of this writing, no executive order arising from those drafts has been signed.

For Puerto Rico, though, the implications for the upcoming status vote are too clear to be missed. Choosing independence means an eventual end of U.S. citizenship, and Free Association similarly leaves current U.S. citizenship in a precarious situation, vulnerable to elimination at any time.

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