Filipino Immigrants in Hawaii

October 19, 2015 11:25 am
by David Jakeman

If you’re a Hawaii immigration lawyer, chances are you’ve helped an immigrant from the Philippines. As of last year, the estimated number of undocumented immigrants living in Hawaii totaled just over 20,000. The largest ethnic group among those immigrants was those coming from the Philippines. Filipinos constitute 46 percent of undocumented immigrants in Hawaii, far outpacing the next closest group, which are Japanese immigrants totalling 15 percent.

Why So Many Filipino Immigrants in Hawaii?

There are many reasons why there are so many Filipino immigrants in Hawaii. One reason is that there are longstanding connections between the two regions forged over many years of U.S. involvement in both areas. The United States has long had a presence in the Philippines, starting with the Spanish American War, which placed the Philippines under U.S. control for a while.
That long-lasting presence, as well as continual U.S. military presence, has continued the U.S.-Filipino connection. Another reason Filipinos come to Hawaii is that many Filipinos have some background in English, so moving to Hawaii is not as big of a challenge than it would be to move to other places. There is also the obvious geographic proximity and large amount of capital that draws those from poorer locations to the richer islands of Hawaii.

Immigration Realities Across Hawaii

In the decade after 2000, Hawaii saw an influx of immigrants, which helped boost its islands’ populations by 12 percent. Undocumented immigrants are well-established in Hawaii: some 40 percent of undocumented immigrants are homeowners, and over 80 percent of them have health insurance. Although these statistics might be surprising to some, they show how hard many undocumented immigrants work to try to gain a foothold in this country.1

More often, the large number of undocumented immigrants in Hawaii are more recent arrivals. Over 65 percent of undocumented immigrants living in Hawaii have been in the country nine years or less, so Hawaii’s immigrant population is truly a dynamic and shifting population.

It will be interesting to see how immigration demographics shift over the next few years. Will other countries supplant the Philippines as the number one exporter of immigrants to Hawaii? Immigration lawyers in Waikoloa and other places watch these trends closely, trying to make sure they best serve their clients both in legal advice and language skills in order to help their clients understand the best legal options available.

There are many Filipino immigrants in Hawaii with questions about how to navigate the byzantine U.S. immigration legal code. It can be a daunting and difficult process to know what to do. It is not something that you would want to try to do without qualified and competent legal advice. A legal representative with experience and a successful track record is often very helpful. For this reason, you want to make sure you find the best Hawaii immigration lawyer possible. It’s worth it.


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