Tuesday, December 01, 2015
Immigration to Hawaii will be from the Pacific Islands, no need to worry about Syria anyway
One of the most passionate speeches of the opening day of the U.N. climate change conference here in Paris was delivered by the Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak. Thousands of residents from the Marshall Islands have already fled the Pacific island state, becoming climate change refugees. Loeak urged world leaders to end the fossil fuel era.—Democracy Now, 12/1/2015
by Larry Geller
Our daily newspaper has failed to put the Syrian refugee issue in context in a number of ways. Here’s one more. Refugees are and will be coming to Hawaii anyway, but they’re just not Syrians. And regardless of the views of letter writers that the paper selects, we do welcome them.
They are from the Pacific Islands. Adding in a few more refugees from other countries won’t even be a blip in the inflow.
Part of the objection to Governor David Ige’s speech welcoming Syrian refugees to Hawaii was rooted in pure xenophobia and part on the argument that we have no space for Syrian refugees when we still have a massive and growing homeless population (a symptom, of course, of at least a decade of neglect of Hawaii’s ongoing housing crisis).
In the Pacific, we bombed the hell out of some islands and occupy others, leading to the Compact of Free Association which allows residents of COFA countries to come to the US. Many have chosen to live in Hawaii.
Add in the effects of climate change and it’s clear that Hawaii will be receiving more immigrants. See especially:
- Climate Change: ‘The Single Greatest Threat To Our Existence’ (Civil Beat, 10/26/2015)
- A ground zero forgotten:The Marshall Islands, once a U.S. nuclear test site, face oblivion again (Washington Post, 11/27/2015)
- Climate Change Focus On Marshall Islands (Civil Beat, 11/27/2015)
- "The Fossil Fuel Era Must Draw to a Close": A Message from the Marshall Islands to the World (includes video) (Democracy Now, 12/1/2015)
- The Marshall Islands Are Disappearing (NYTimes, 12/2/2015)
Under a 1986 compact, the roughly 70,000 residents of the Marshalls, because of their long military ties to Washington, are free to emigrate to the United States, a pass that will become more enticing as the water rises on the islands’ shores.—New York Times
Sadly, the current climate talks in Paris will not result in action needed to save the world from climate catastrophe—check in with Democracy Now during the week for an inside look. So populations will be on the move as they are threatened both by the direct effects of climate change and by unrest caused by increasing competition for resources.
Hawaii will have its own problems as the earth warms. For the moment, though, our state does indeed welcome immigrants and refugees. And it doesn’t matter if some politicians or news media don’t like it.