Deportations down in Marshall Islands, Micronesia

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MAJURO — The number of Marshall Islanders and Micronesians deported by the United States went down last year compared to 2018 but remained significant for both nations.

A total of 32 Marshallese were deported last year, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Fiscal Year 2019 Enforcement and Removal Operations Report that the Marshall Islands Journal published in its Friday edition.

The 32 deportees were three fewer than 2018, which together with 2016, set the all-time record for deportees at 35. In FY 2017, 22 Marshallese were deported. An average of 31 Marshallese have been deported annually from the U.S. over the past four years.

Among the three Freely Associated States, the Federated States of Micronesia had the most deported in 2019 with 91. But this was down from 99 the previous year.

This file photo from late 2019 shows downtown Majuro, the destination for most Marshall Islanders deported from the United States. An average of 31 Marshallese have been deported annually during the past four years.  Photo by Hilary Hosia

Citizens of the Marshall Islands, FSM and Palau all enjoy visa-free access to the United States to live, work and study. Reasons for deportations can involve convictions for violent crimes including assault, rape and murder as well as for lesser violations such as not appearing for scheduled court hearings, driving under the influence of alcohol or tax evasion.

The ICE annual report shows that most Pacific islands saw a reduction in the number of their citizens deported in 2019. Overall, however, deportations from the United States increased in 2019, to 267,258 people compared to 256,085 in 2018, according to ICE statistics. The highest number of deportations involved citizens of Mexico, with 127,492 being removed from the U.S. in 2019.

Among the Freely Associated States in the north Pacific, Palau saw deportations of its citizens rise marginally from nine to 10 from 2018 to 2019.

Samoa saw the number of deportees drop nearly in half, from 30 in 2018 to 17 last year. Fiji and Tonga, both with 20 deportations in 2018, saw these numbers decline to 11 and 10, respectively, last year.

Papua New Guinea deportations increased from one to two in this period. Citizens of Nauru, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu were on good behavior with zero deportations two years running, according to ICE data.