Micronesians - History and Cultural Relations

The first Micronesian immigrants to the United States were a very few islanders, known as "Bajinerus" in Guam, who shipped out from home as whalers or crewmen on merchant ships in the mid-nineteenth century. In 1898 the United States took possession of Guam as a booty of the Spanish-American War, and prior to World War II, young Guamanian men became eligible for the draft. Military service and the subsequent relocation of families in the 1940s and 1950s provided the first avenue for significant Micronesian immigration to the United States, although this route was limited Entirely to Guamanians. This wave of migration reached its peak during the 1950s and 1960s, owing to the Korean and Vietnam wars. The U.S. Naval Base in Long Beach, California, has been the primary employer of Guamanians as navy enlisted personnel and as civilians.

After World War II, the United States received trusteeship of the remainder of the Mariana Islands, the Caroline Islands, and the Marshall Islands, and the entire territory Except for Guam became the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. As the Americanization of Guam and the other Micronesian islands accelerated during the postwar decades, education gained increasing importance. American-style schools were built throughout Micronesia, and growing numbers of young Micronesian high school graduates arrived in the United States to pursue college education. This accounted for a second wave of Micronesian migrants. In 1972, U.S. Federal scholarship assistance in the form of grant and loan programs was extended to Micronesians, which considerably increased the tide of college-bound islanders coming to the United States. By the early 1980s, however, this stream of migration peaked. At its height, there were perhaps a maximum of five-thousand Micronesian college-age individuals (not counting Guamanians) in the United States, which represented a sizable percentage of the home population in this age bracket.

The third and most recent wave of Micronesian migration to the United States comprises individuals and families who have left their homes out of dissatisfaction with the Economic and social constraints of life in small island Communities and have come to the United States to seek a better life. This third wave is significantly different from the first two. The individuals are older, and rather than intending a shortterm circular migration for military service or educational training, these migrants usually intend to settle permanently or for a long period in the United States. The third wave shows aspects typical of chain migration. Often the migrants follow relatives or friends who had previously migrated for military or educational reasons, and they rely heavily on their social relations or kinship with previous migrants in order to find jobs and housing, and generally receive assistance in accommodating to their new life. Among Guamanians, this stream began in the 1960s and now accounts for the largest number of immigrants to the United States.

Other Micronesians gained unrestricted immigration into the United States only in 1986 when the Compacts of Free Association were signed, leading to a migration of Islanders seeking a better life during the past few years. Micronesian settlement in the United States still reflects the importance of military and educational centers of opportunity. Guamanians are concentrated around military bases in southern California and in the south bay cities of Long Beach, Carson, and Wilmington; settlement extends to border cities of Orange County such as Garden Grove and Buena Park. Other Micronesians tend to cluster around University and community college centers in Washington, Oregon, California, and Texas.

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Juliann Ioanis
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Jul 20, 2015 @ 10:22 pm
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