Over the last three decades thousands of citizens from the Micronesia region have settled in the United States under the terms of a wide-ranging compact, with the vast majority choosing to live in Hawaii. Yet many say they have rarely felt welcome and are now sharing their experiences of racism and discrimination under the hashtag #BeingMicronesian.
Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands have been free to live in the United States since 1986, when the countries signed treaties with the US known collectively as the Compact of Free Association (COFA). A similar package of free association agreements was reached between the US and the Republic of Palau in 1994. The deals granted the US exclusive territorial control of the islands.
Micronesian, Marshallese and Palauan citizens are not eligible for automatic US citizenship but as US taxpayers were initially eligible for benefits available to Americans. That changed in 1996, when the the US federal government restricted non-citizens – including those who came to the US via COFA – from being able to access key public programmes. All the while Micronesians say they have been subject to racism and discrimination – from being called a drain on the public budget of Hawaii to being compared to vermin such as cockroaches.
With the racism and discrimination on show in Hawaii belying its reputation for love and compassion, The Stream will examine if there is any way to ensure the safety and security of Micronesians living in the Aloha State and beyond.
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