Aid for Pacific Island Immigrants?

Jade Agua, Assistant Director of USC’s Asian Pacific American Student Services, recently shared this story with me. It discusses issues related to the provision of aid for immigrants from the Federal States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau (Compacts of Free Association, or COFA nations) who may receive aid–but currently, only at the state level–while living and working in the US. Providing such aid has proven difficult, as Guam’s and Hawaii’s budgets are “severely constrained” these days.

While this news pertains to a few specific Pacific Islander groups in Hawaii, the situation relates to API immigration in America in general. It’s important to consider what kinds of resources, services, and aid that immigrants can receive from any level of government–if any. Clearly Hawaii represents a special case in this story. While the state may find it difficult to sustain the aid they give Compact Migrants, they have given it nonetheless, and has shown, to use Senator Akaka’s words, deep compassion and aloha for their brothers and sisters across the Pacific. It’s important to consider how various forms of aid both positively and negatively affect immigrant communities across the board, however. Some communities may not have access to the aid they truly need. Sometimes aid can negatively impact communities’ engagement in areas of society like education. To give an example, a family friend of mine is a teacher at a public middle school in Hawaii, where many teachers find it consistently difficult to motivate certain Marshallese youth, who want to simply rely on aid given to their families and communities in the future and see no purpose in doing well in school or eventually going to college given this provision of aid.

Though cases like the one discussed in this article may only directly affect some API communities, they are still important for all API(A)s to consider–specific immigration and aid policies affect the entirety of our communities in the US as well as across Asia and the Pacific.

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