Mission and Purpose
COFA Alliance National Network (CANN) is an Oregon based non-profit organization that is dedicated to advocating for the people of the three Pacific Island nations (Republic of Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia) that have a unique Compact or treaty with the United States. The treaty is called the Compact of Free Association. The primary goal of the organization is to seek social and economic justice under the law for all COFA residents in Oregon and throughout the 50 states and its territories.
The three COFA nations are The Republic of Palau, The Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia. CANN is focused on educating Oregonians and Americans about the many issues confronting COFA people residing in the United States.
Compact of Free Association
“COFA” is an acronym for Compact of Free Association, a reciprocal treaty established between The Republic of Palau (ROP), The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and the United States (US). The treaty took effect in the 1980’s and allows the United States to operate armed forces in our states, demand land for operating military bases, and grant or withhold permission to other countries’ militaries to operate on our lands.
It also created a unique immigration status for people from COFA nations: we can travel to, live, and work in the United States without visas or green cards. While the Marshallese and Palauan citizens may possess dual citizenships with the United States, FSM citizens cannot.
Many of us proudly serve in the United States military, and do so at a higher rate per capita than Americans. And originally, the treaty allowed those of us who were income-eligible to access federal assistance programs such as Medicaid. Yet, 1996 federal welfare reform law deemed us ineligible for Medicaid and federal assistance programs, creating waves of barriers to health and opportunity.
History of CANN
CANN was formed in 2014 by Chris Ogo, Kianna and Jesper Angelo, Loyd Henion, and David Anitok, to meet the need to put a spotlight the social and economic injustices that were being borne by the people of the three Pacific Island countries living in the United States.
All founders had all been associated, in one way or another, with existing organizations that were representing Asian and Pacific Islanders living in Oregon, but none of these were specifically organized around COFA.
Earlier, in 2013, CANN’s founding members had already begun the work of restoring social and economic justice to Oregon’s COFA residents. The passage of HB 2517 reversed the one year only Driver’s License limit on Oregon’s COFA residents. Enactment of the bill meant that Oregon’s COFA residents could live here more freely, as a vital impediment to everyday life was removed.
The need for to remove the Driver’s License and Health Care inequities for the COFA people was seen to be so urgent that the CANN founders saw that a 501c4 was preferred, as intentional, directed lobbying was needed in order to get reform laws passed. The goal was to concentrate efforts in Oregon before launching a national campaign.
As a new organization, CANN understood that it was critical to work in unity with the other well-established organizations serving the Asian and Pacific Islanders. Working together with other organizations CANN was successful in garnering passage of the HB 4071 in 2016 (COFA Premium Healthcare Assistance program).
Meet the Staff:
Kara Miller, Executive Director
Kara Miller grew up traveling and living around the Pacific Islands region, specifically Yap, Palau, and Fiji, and went on to work all throughout the FSM and RMI. Although her background is in marine biology, ocean policy, and fisheries management, she moved on to broader program and project management and worked closely with the education ministries of the FSM and RMI. A highlight of this work was teaching a marine science curriculum development course for RMI graduate students through the University of Hawaii. All the students in this class were educators working within the public school systems in both Majuro and Ebeye; and as part of this class, the students learned field survey techniques to measure their fisheries and coral reefs. This class provided an opportunity for some to try snorkeling for the first time ever!Kara can’t wait to get back to the islands post-COVID. In the meantime, she is incredibly grateful and excited to be able to work alongside her islander communities throughout the state of Oregon.
Liza Merril, Finance Manager (CBO Lead)
Ronica Reimers, Contact Tracer & Wraparound Resource Advocate
Ronica was born and raised in the Marshall Islands. She is fluent in both the Marshallese language and the English language. Ronica moved to Oregon from the Marshall Islands in 2002 and currently lives in Multnomah County. As a Contact Tracer and Wraparound Resource Advocate, Ronica is willing to do her part in helping the COFA community during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is with a caring heart that she is moved to advocate for our community.
Alexandrea Mailo, Contact Tracer & Wraparound Resource Advocate
Ms. Alexandrea Mailo was a college graduate from the College of Micronesia, she
received her A.A degree in Liberal Arts and also accredited at Fiji National University up to post-
graduate certificate in Data for Decision Making while she had her first job at the public health
in Chuuk. She is now residing in the state of Oregon and currently working for the COFA
Alliance National Network as a contact tracer and wrap around resource advocate. She said, “
just right when I step foot in health services and come to know more about her community that
is impacted by many health problems, it motivated her in reaching out to the people of her
community and helping those in need, in regards to health services, resources and healthy
living.” – she thinks this is her fade and she was born to help those in need if God permits.
Ramon Fukuichi, EO CANN President, Wraparound Resource Advocate
Ramon Fukuichi is originally from the Republic of Palau and now lives in La Grande, Oregon. He was one of the founding members of EO CANN, being their very first treasurer. He also played an important role in drafting the Bylaws of EO CANN and running 5 successful Food Drives in Union County. The food drives achieved feeding on average 800 INDIVIDUALS from over 300 FAMILIES per event during his first term as officer! Through his works, he wants to remind our community not to be feel undeserving of benefits set out for us and to take advantage of them because it’s, in fact, our right:“You work hard, pay taxes, contribute to your community, and therefore are deserving of the support services available in your area and you can always come to us to find any of your needs.”
-R.F.Ramon continues to inspire our community members and set out a positive leadership in CANN. Stay tuned with CANN to learn more about our work and how leaders like Ramon help COFA islanders by stepping up and sharing opportunities that benefit our communities!
McGraig Takeshi, Communications Lead
McGraig is originally form the Republic of Palau and now lives in La Grande, Oregon. He works in the Communications and IT department in CANN. McGraigs passion is mostly revolves around IT as well as advocating for our community members. McGraig looks forward to bringing his experiences, personal and professional, to CANN and do his part to help in achieving the organizational goals for our community.