March 9, 2012
Since the COFA (Compact of Free Association) Act was formalized between the Pacific Island nations of Micronesia and the United States in 1986, there have been rising influxes of Micronesian citizens that have the privilege of entering the U.S. without the need for a visa or time limit. These FAS (Freely Associated States) include the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. While there is no obligation to immigrate to a specific state within the U.S., many choose to settle on Hawai’i. Due to its proximity to their home islands and tropical environment, the Micronesian population in Hawai’i has been steadily increasing during recent years. It is estimated that around 15,000 COFA migrants are currently residing in Hawai’i, where they subsequently face many barriers as new immigrants, including language, social and cultural barriers. Specifically, there is an ever-growing presence of Micronesian stereotyping and marginalization that is frequently exhibited by other ethnic populations in Hawai’i. Because they are seen as the “newest” population to arrive on the islands and the fastest growing, Micronesians are subject to many forms of discrimination. In recent years, our local community has been ill-equipped and misinformed about the Micronesian population. Consequently, our unfamiliarity has contributed to their isolation and discrimination within the Hawai’ian Islands. It is important for us as residents of Hawai’i to bridge the gap that exists between Micronesians and what we perceive as our own “local society”. Due to our society being misinformed and social control factors at work, we perceive Micronesians as being inept, destitute and imprudent.
There are several barriers that hinder Micronesian assimilation within the islands. One such barrier is within the health care system. In Dr. Yamada’s article...