Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Esther Kiaaina has sent a letter to U.S. Senate and House congressional leadership proposing legislation that would permit the people of Bikini Atoll to relocate their communities outside of the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

Bikini was subject to extensive nuclear testing by the U.S. in the 1940s and 1950s and is largely uninhabitable, and the islanders now live in other places in the Marshalls. Current federal law restricts Bikini resettlement funds for use within those islands.

“This is an appropriate course of action for the United States to take regarding the welfare and livelihood of the Bikinian people given the deteriorating conditions on Kili and Ejit Islands in the Marshall Islands with crowding, diminishing resources, and increased frequency of flooding due to King Tides on their islands,” Kiaaina said in a press release Tuesday.

The Bikini Atoll nuclear test, Castle Bravo.

The Bikini Atoll nuclear test, Castle Bravo.

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Kiaana, who is Native Hawaiian, visited the Marshalls in March when Bikinian leaders asked for changes in the federal law.

The people of Bikini are entitled to live, work and study in the United States as nonimmigrants without visas — without restriction on duration of stay — as part of the Compact of Free Association between the United States and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

Read more about COFA and the Marshalls in Civil Beat’s new series, The Micronesians:

An Untold Story of American Immigration

‘A Journey That Has No Ending’

The Odyssey of Jonithen Jackson

Health Care: Migration Is Often a Matter of Survival

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