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Pacific isle migrants could strain Hawaii

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New agreements aimed at weaning two Pacific island nations off U.S. aid could lead to increased migration to Hawaii, putting a heavy burden on the state, an expert on Pacific Island studies says.

Recently signed revisions to the Compacts of Free Association for the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands would gradually reduce U.S. aid over the next 20 years and establish trust funds aimed at sustaining the islands' economies after the United States stops making payments in 2024.

The diversion of millions of dollars could make it difficult for the Micronesian and Marshallese governments to come up with their own annual funding to maintain adequate social services, said Gerard Finin, acting director of the Pacific Islands Development Program at the East-West Center.

If the two governments decide to cut back on government services to save money, "my concern is that as conditions become more difficult in each of these countries, there will be increasing outflows," Finin said.

"As anybody who's ever studied migration knows, people tend to go where they already have friends, relatives or some familiarity -- I think that's where the impact on Hawaii will be felt most clearly."

Thousands of islanders already have come to Hawaii under the compact's wide-open immigration provisions, and government services are already feeling the pinch.

"I think that's a legitimate concern," Gov. Linda Lingle said recently.

"If people feel they don't have the opportunities at home or they can't get appropriate health care for their families, they're going to go where they can get it ... and the probability is high they'll come here because they're comfortable here and because they're accepted here."

The issue is hardly new to Hawaii, which counts a population of about 7,000 Marshallese and a slightly smaller number from Micronesia, Finin said.

In the past four years, the state has spent an estimated $100 million providing education, health and social services for a free flow of migrants from Micronesia and the Marshalls, which negotiated the compacts in 1986 after the termination of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands that had given the United States a U.N. trusteeship over the islands.

The federal law outlining U.S. policy regarding the compacts provides that "the Congress will act sympathetically and expeditiously to redress" any adverse consequences caused to Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Marianas by migrations from Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, which are about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii.

Lingle said federal officials who envisioned the reduced funding to the Marshalls and Micronesia need to realize that it could have an impact on Hawaii. "It will be our obligation to make certain that they understand that," she said.

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...and they are still a coming, the neighborhood i live in is basically Koreatown which also borders Japantown to the east but now its definately becoming more & more Micronesian. The interesting thing about this group of people which there is a huge variety of them linguistically and culturally is that they are spread out unlike many newer immigrants that arrive on Hawaii's shores or any other place new immigrants usually start off in certain neighborhoods where they have established communities then slowly move on but not the Micronesians, i think thats what sets them apart from others and in a good way. Other immigrants like the Burmese tend to live mostly in but a few select neighborhoods same with the Jordanians & Moroccans.

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