AO-2017-007

Part 1626 and Services by a U.S. Grantee to Micronesians living in Micronesia

Question Presented

May an LSC grantee in Michigan represent an otherwise eligible individual with a Michigan legal issue who resides in Micronesia with Micronesian citizenship, but not U.S. citizenship?

Brief Answer

Yes.  Under the Compact of Free Association Act (Compact Act), Congress provided that many federal programs and services, including those of LSC, “shall be made available to the Federated States of Micronesia and to the Marshall Islands.”  48 U.S.C. 1905(h)(1)(A).  Thus, citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia (Micronesia) are not subject to the same alienage restrictions that apply to other non-U.S. citizens seeking assistance from an LSC grantee.  Part 1626 permits an LSC grantee in the United States to provide services to otherwise eligible Micronesian citizens residing in Micronesia.

Background

Micronesian Legal Services Corporation (MLSC) represents a client living in Micronesia who is seeking child support for her children.  The children’s father resides in Michigan within the service area of another LSC grantee (Michigan Grantee).  MLSC has sought a court order of support in Pohnpei State, Federated State of Micronesia, and has asked the Michigan Grantee to file the support judgment in Michigan so that collection can occur.  The Michigan Grantee does not normally provide services in Micronesia.

Congress adopted the Compact Act to implement the terms of the Compact of Free Association for the Federated American States (Compact), which defines the relationship between the U.S. government and three nations with quasi-independence from the U.S.: Micronesia, the Republic of Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.  For example, the Compact Act provides that citizens of those nation are eligible “for admission to the United States as nonimmigrants, and are eligible to live and work indefinitely in the United States.”  U.S. Dep’t. of Justice, Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), and the Republic of Palau Have the Right to Work Without Facing Discrimination: What Employers Should Know (January 2017).  The Compact Act provides that many U.S. federal programs and services, including those of LSC, “shall be made available to the Federated States of Micronesia and to the Marshall Islands.”  48 U.S.C. 1905(h)(1)(A).  Thus, LSC adopted 45 C.F.R. § 1626.10(a) to govern services to those clients living in the Federated States of Micronesia and to the Marshall Islands:

(1) This part is not applicable to recipients providing services in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of the Marshall Islands. [Adopted in 1983 and revised in 1989.]

(2) All citizens of the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands residing in the United States are eligible to receive legal assistance provided that they are otherwise eligible under the Act.  [Adopted in 2007.]

See 72 Fed. Reg. 52491 (Sept. 14, 2007) (providing a detailed history of the Compact and Part 1626).  LSC implemented advice from the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs at the Department of Interior and the U.S. Department of State that the Compact and Compact Act extend all covered benefits to citizens of Micronesia and the other nations in the Compact “regardless of where those citizens are lawfully residing (in [Micronesia] or the United States).”  Id. at 52490.

Analysis and Conclusion

This Micronesian citizen resides in Micronesia and seeks legal assistance from an LSC grantee in Michigan.  The Compact and Compact Act require LSC to treat her Micronesian citizenship as equivalent to U.S. citizenship for Part 1626 eligibility.  Section 1626.10(a)(2) does not apply because the client is not “residing in the United States.”  Normally, the section 1626.10(a)(1) provision does not apply to the Michigan Grantee because it does not provide services in Micronesia.  In this situation, 45 C.F.R. § 1626.10(a) applies because, under these circumstances, the Michigan Grantee is “providing services in” Micronesia by representing a Micronesian client residing there.  Thus, Part 1626 permits the Michigan Grantee to accept this client, subject to all other applicable criteria.

RONALD S. FLAGG
General Counsel and Vice President for
Legal Affairs

MARK FREEDMAN
Senior Associate General Counsel