Hawaii’s Immigration History

July 10, 2015 4:28 am
by David Jakeman

The history of Hawaii is full of arrivals and departures, intrigue and subterfuge, and a rich cosmopolitan flavor created by numerous immigrants from around the world. Hawaiian immigration attorneys have a good understanding that Japanese immigrants have long been a part of Hawaii’s rich immigration history. Now we might get a detailed look at the first three generations of Japanese immigrants thanks to the work of a filmmaker looking to tell their story.

Film on Immigration

Walter Dods is a filmmaker who has been hard at work on a film entitled The Long Journey Home. He begins the film by looking at the first group of Japanese immigrants who arrived in Hawaii to work in the coffee fields of the Big Island. The first group of workers from Japan was told that they would work for three years and then be free to pursue other alternatives. Of course, they had not been told about how difficult work was on the plantation, with tough bosses, poor living conditions, and brutal work.
Because of these difficult circumstances, some chose to run away. They headed on a several-day journey to Kona, a place they had heard was safe for those seeking protection. They had to hide from police and others who wanted to take advantage of them. Being caught meant punishment both physically and monetarily. Those that did make it out safe established a thriving coffee production business in Kona. Immigration attorneys throughout the United States may be aware of the well known Kona coffee brand. But it wasn’t easy at first. It took many decades of hard work on small plots of land.

Looking for Material

Dods is currently looking for more information from families who come from the Japanese immigrants who left for Kona. The time period he is looking at is from 1880 to 1970, and he would love any photographs or artifacts that early farmers in Kona may have used. Dods narrative includes an interesting story, that of Ellison Onizuka, who was the first Asian-American astronaut and came from Kona.1

Immigration attorneys hear many difficult stories almost every week. Unfortunately, the past is also full of difficult stories. The story of the Japanese immigrants who fled to Kona is one that also tells of the indefatigable spirit of many immigrants who have shaped and created this country. Hawaiian immigration attorneys get to work with a wide diversity of clients, and that can be what makes it so rewarding.

Helping clients build solid foundations to help future generations is one of the greatest pleasures of working in immigration law, and it’s important that lawyers keep such goals in mind. For the brave immigrants to Kona, they didn’t have the easiest time, but they made the best of a horrible situation. They also cultivated some amazing coffee in the end too.


1 http://goo.gl/7Fp6b6

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