Hawaii’s Tensions with Micronesian Immigrants

November 19, 2015 6:59 am
by David Jakeman

Those interested in immigration issues in Hawaii likely know that Micronesians represent one of the fastest growing immigrant groups in Hawaii. With such changes come great opportunities, but the influx of one immigrant group can sometimes bother communities less familiar with the new arrivals. Such challenges can make it difficult for people to acclimate to a new country.

One Micronesian Immigrant’s Experience

One Micronesian immigrant explains that she didn’t realize that there could be such ill will to Micronesian immigrants. Her preconceptions all changed with a taxi ride to church. One Sunday, the woman, whose husband is a Filipino immigrant, took a taxi to church. She was wearing Western-style clothing, and her husband had made the taxi reservation.

The driver picked her up and then pointed out a number of Micronesian women who were also waiting to go to church. The driver seemed frustrated with the number of Micronesian immigrants that had arrived. In a disparaging manner, he asked why they still wore their traditional dresses. The woman didn’t know what to say, as the driver kept expressing his disgust.

She thought about coming forward and explaining that she was a Micronesian immigrant herself, but decided not to. She said she would just pray for him. Before this instance, the woman had not believed her friends when they expressed feelings of marginalization, but experiencing it firsthand in such a visceral manner caused her to question her previous opinions.

Discrimination against Micronesian Immigrants

For some people in Hawaii, the unfamiliarity with Micronesian culture has led to misunderstandings and sometimes even discrimination. Programs have cropped up to help Micronesian immigrants make the transitions. Waikoloa immigration attorneys can point their Micronesian immigrant clients to these services. Some of them offer job and language training—vital skills necessary for paving a new life in a new country.

Some believe that the challenges of a new life in a new country contributes to stereotypes of Micronesians. The culture shock can be incapacitating, making it difficult to adjust. Although life in Hawaii is seen by many as easy going, it can be an adjustment for Micronesian immigrants who are used to an even more laid-back style. That’s not to mention that Micronesian immigrants often have to work more difficult jobs at odd hours; that makes it difficult to find a rhythm and set a consistent internal body clock that is consistently ignored in Western culture.1

Whatever happens over the next few years, it does seem certain that Hawaii will see more and more Micronesian immigrants. How officials and community members deal with the influx will impact how future generations fare in this new life. There is a hope that Hawaii immigration attorneys can help meet the demand for services. Attorneys can provide much needed help in navigating life on a new island.

1 http://www.honolulumagazine.com/Honolulu-Magazine/August-2011/Micronesian-in-Hawaii/

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