Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview

Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview
Overview of Fayetteville, AR

Friday, May 30, 2008

Marshallese Citizens in NW Arkansas Welcome President Litokwa Tomeing

Thousands of Marshallese people, many of them residents of NW Arkansas, welcomed Litokwa Tomeing, President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), to Springdale over the Memorial Day weekend. Others came from as far away as Oregon and Florida.

The reason for President Tomeing’s visit was two-fold: to celebrate the 29th anniversary of Marshall Island independence and to announce there would soon be a fully staffed consulate in Springdale.

NW Arkansas is currently home to roughly 5,000 to 6,000 Marshallese. Hawaii and Oregon also have large populations with smaller groups living in Oklahoma, Texas and Florida.

A little background is necessary to understand why so many Marshallese come to this country to live and work --

During World War II, the United States conquered the Japanese who controlled and occupied the islands after the First World War. In 1947 the Marshall Islands and several more island groups in the South Pacific Sea were added to the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, administered by the U.S.

From 1946 to 1958 the U.S. tested 66 nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands including the largest nuclear test the U.S. ever conducted. (If you’re old enough, I’m sure the names Bikini Atoll, Rongelap, and Aniwetok are familiar). Some health effects were virtually immediate while long term results still linger.

RMI consists of 29 atolls and 5 isolated islands spread over an area of about one million square miles. The population totals about 62,000 people. Most of the land lies at sea level and is vulnerable to typhoons. The economy is mainly agricultural but has few natural resources. Imports far exceed exports.

The U.S. Army maintains its Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll and in addition to paying rent to the land owners, it is the largest employer.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) was officially established in 1979 and became self governing.

In 1986 RMI and the U.S. entered into the Compact of Free Association which provided for U.S. aid to and defense of RMI in exchange for continued U.S. military use of the missile testing range on Kwajalein Atoll.

Under the Compact of Free Association, Marshallese citizens can come and go freely between their homeland and the United States. They can live, work and receive education in the U.S. but they maintain Marshallese citizenship. They are considered migrants — not immigrants or refugees. The migrant designation permits the Marshallese to enter and leave the U.S. without being screened.

Obviously, many have chosen the U.S.

To celebrate President Tomeing’s visit local Marshallese organized food, sports, singing, lots of visiting, and health and job fairs. Marshallese communities across the country sent 60 teams to compete in sports tournaments that included basketball, softball and volleyball. The 3-day celebration was held at Jones Center for Families in Springdale.

Foreign Minister Tony DeBrum who accompanied President Tomeing said the largest overseas Marshallese community lives in NW Arkansas. RMI is in the process of meeting U.S. requirements for the establishment of a consulate in Springdale to look after its citizens.

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