Full Committee Insular Affairs

The Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) coordinates federal legislation for the U.S. territories of American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI).  Residents of the territories are U.S. citizens or nationals.

OIA also oversees legislation to provide federal assistance under Compacts of Free Association to the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau, and helps maintain strategic relationships with all U.S.-affiliated insular areas.

American Samoa

American Samoa became a U.S. territory by deed of cession when the matai (local chiefs) of Tutuila, the largest island in American Samoa, ceded the island to the United States in 1900. Manu'a followed in 1904. Swain Island was incorporated into the territory in 1925 by an act of Congress. Some of the most pressing issues in American Samoa today include:

  • Climate change and coastal erosion
  • Diversifying its tuna canning-based economy
  • Economic development
  • Adapting to the U.S. federal minimum wage
  • Addressing U.S. national status

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Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) emerged from the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI) that the United States administered on behalf of the United Nations from 1947 until Palau, the last member of the TTPI to choose its own political future, became an independent country in 1994. The federal law (the Covenant) making the CNMI a U.S. territory passed in 1975. The CNMI adopted its constitution in 1977, and its first constitutional government took office in 1978. The CNMI adopted federal minimum wage regulations in 2007 and immigration law in 2008. In June 2009, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security took over the CNMI's immigration and border controls. Major CNMI issues include:

  • Climate change and coastal erosion
  • Reconstruction and aid efforts after Typhoons Mangkhut and Yutu
  • Workforce development
  • Economic development

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Guam became a U.S. territory in 1898 and was placed under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Navy. The Guam Organic Act of 1950 conferred U.S. citizenship on Guamanians, established the territory's government, and transferred federal jurisdiction over Guam from the U.S. Navy to the Department of the Interior. The first elections were held in 1970. Current Guam issues include:

  • Climate change and coastal erosion
  • Relocation of 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force from Okinawa to Guam
  • Economic development
  • Impacts of the Compact
  • War claims
  • Political status education

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Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory as a result of the Spanish-American War in 1898. In 1917, its residents received U.S. citizenship through the Jones Act. Puerto Rico became a Commonwealth in 1952 and now has its own constitution, legislature and elected governor. For decades, Puerto Ricans have been considering three significantly different political status options – statehood, new commonwealth, and independence – as an alternative to the present relationship with the United States. Puerto Rico issues currently include:

  • Climate change and coastal erosion
  • Reconstruction efforts after Hurricanes Maria and Irma, and other natural disasters
  • Debt restructuring proceedings and austerity measures resulting from the implementation of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA)
  • Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) transformation and investments in renewable energy
  • Economic development

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U.S. Virgin Islands

The United States purchased the Virgin Islands from Denmark in 1917 for $25 million, mainly for strategic reasons to assure tranquility in the Caribbean Ocean. U.S. citizenship was conferred on U.S. Virgin Islanders in 1927. The Organic Act of 1936 laid the foundation for self-government, and a more elaborate governmental structure emerged from the revised Organic Act of 1954. The first elections for constitutional officers were held in 1970. USVI issues include:

  • Climate change and coastal erosion
  • Reconstruction and aid efforts after Hurricanes Maria and Irma
  • Economic development

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Freely Associated States under the Compact of Free Association

Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI)

Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)
Republic of Palau

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