The Case for Justice for Micronesians in Hawai`i

COFA cover pageIn December 2011, Hawai‘i Appleseed released a report on the struggles of the Micronesian community here in Hawaii and the barriers they face in the US. Click here to view the color version in full and here to view it in black and white. You can also view a FAQ we produced on the Micronesian community and Basic Health Hawaii here and an infographic on benefit eligibility here.

Over the past several years, Micronesians have too often been negatively portrayed in the media and by certain government actions and statements as a drain on the limited resources available to provide educational, health and social services for our low income residents. This report was prepared to better educate the public, social services programs and governmental leaders about the historical relationship Micronesians have had with the United States, the important contributions they are making to our national and economic security and the cultural, social and linguistic barriers they must overcome to succeed at assimilation and self achievement in Hawai`i.

map of Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Marshall Islands, and Republic of Palau

We want to emphasize a few points which are contained in the report that we hope the legislature and the administration would consider as it explores its options for the development of positive policies affecting COFA migrants:

  • Contrary to the common public perception in Hawai`i, the contributions that the COFA nations historically have made to our economic and the national security interests are substantial and continuing. Micronesian child
  • Regardless of these contributions and the historical mismanagement of our relationship with the COFA nations, unlike all other legal immigrants in our country, COFA migrants are never entitled to receive federally supported benefits such as Medicaid, Food Stamps, SSI and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
  • The suggestion that the COFA agreements can be renegotiated to end the right of free entry in the future has little, if any, realistic chance of becoming a reality given the critical strategic benefits our country gains from the control of the various islands and vast waters in the Pacific.
  • Micronesians continues to be marginalized in Hawai`i by media coverage and the adoption of restrictive federal and state governmental policies. The argument repeatedly made by both the Lingle and Abercrombie administrations that the federal government should pay for state expenses associated with COFA migrants, while perhaps logical, has no likelihood of success given budget realities and the unfortunate current anti-immigrant sentiments in our country.

As with other examples in our history of the denial of civil rights to residents, such as the Chinese Exclusionary Act and the forced internment of Japanese-Americans, we believe we will look back on our current treatment of Micronesians with embarrassment. We believe it is time to get on the right side of history by creating policies which encourage and support social assimilation and further our own state's long term interests rather than discouraging a subclass of marginalized population who will likely be here forever. It is Hawai`i's way to proudly welcome new immigrants to our islands.

Thanks for taking the time to read the report. We would appreciate any comments you think might be appropriate. We would also appreciate it if you would circulate the report within your office and elsewhere as you may feel appropriate.

You can view the full copy of the report below:

To read more about our work with immigrants, click here.

In the News

  • Op-Ed published in the Civil Beat: Click here to read more. Published February 1, 2012