Migration in the Midst of a Pandemic: A Case Study of Pacific Islanders in Oregon
Scott Drinkall*,, Jackie Leung**, and Kapiolani Micky**
*Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University
3351 Fairfax Drive Van Metre Hall, Arlington, Virginia 22201, USA
**Micronesian Islander Community, Oregon, USA
The Pacific Islander population in the United States continues to grow due to outmigration and a unique immigration arrangement. Under the Compacts of Free Association (COFA), citizens from three Remote Oceania countries can travel to the United States to live and work without restriction. Given the special status of COFA migrants, there is a growing interest among policymakers and researchers to better understand this population, which has often been overlooked. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has recently spotlighted this community due to their exceedingly high rates of infection, hospitalization, and morbidity. This study examines how migration is experienced during a pandemic via a case study of first-generation Micronesians living in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, one of the largest Micronesian communities in the United States. Interviews reveal how social determinants of health – such as economic stability, non-discrimination and equal treatment, access to healthcare, employment, and housing – may contribute to unequal health outcomes between Pacific Islander immigrants and other racial and ethnic populations. These determinants also contribute to human dignity. Using the emergent Migration with Dignity framework, this study assesses how the pandemic has challenged the six dimensions of dignity and disrupted the migration experience, including the push-pull factors for deciding to emigrate to and stay in the United States. Finally, the study assesses resources available for COFA citizens and avenues for improved support.
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