How and Why They Came
Fourth wave Asian immigration included immigrants from India, Korea, Vietnam, and the Philippines. As you can see in Figure 9.1.2, Indian immigration grew between 1980 and 2010 more than eleven-fold, roughly doubling every decade. It is composed primarily of English-speaking, highly educated immigrants, many of whom qualified for an H-1B (a temporary visa for highly skilled immigrants). In 2013, India and China supplanted Mexico as the top sources of newly arriving immigrants in the United States.
Immigrant and Emigrant Populations by Country of Origin and Destination
Model Minority Myth
Crazy Rich Asians
Ethnic Communities & Enclaves
First, The Demographics
|All Asian Countries||1,798,861||3,450,249||3,147,019||1,332,264|
|All European Countries||872,226||917,062||1,786,302||738,898|
|Caribbean, Central & South America||1,424,865||1,924,312||2,236,032||971,635|
Origins of Asian American Enclaves
Multiracial/Hapa Asian Americans
Evolution of Racial Identity Among Asians
Characteristics and Demographics of Multiracials
|Number of Multiracial Asians by Racial/Ethnic Combinations, 2000|
|Number||% of all Multiracial Asians|
|Asian and Other Race(s)||1,655,830||100%|
|Asian and white||868,395||52.4%|
|Asian and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander||138,802||8.4%|
|Asian and Black/African American||106,782||6.4%|
|Asian and Some Other Race||249,108||15.0%|
|All Other Combinations, incl. Other Asian||292,743||17.7%|
|All Asians Alone or with Other Races||11,898,828||4.2% of Total U.S. Population|
Until 1980, "Hawaiian" was the only pacific islander group listed on the Census questionnaire; Guamanian and Samoan were added in 1990 and the census category today, reads "Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander". There are an estimated 1.4 million people who identify with this category in the United States, 41% of which identify as Native Hawaiian, with the remainder identifying as Samoan (13%), Guamanian (10%), Tongan (5%), Fijian (3%), Marshallese (2%) or other Pacific Islander (26%) (Ramakrishnan & Ahmad, 2014). Scholars have argued that because these groups face a different struggles with Pacific Islanders contending with issues relating to sovereignty and decolonization, and Asian Americans dealing with immigration, they deserved a label distinct from "Asian American." Given these dynamics, it is argued that the experience of Pacific Islanders is much more akin to that of Native Americans (Ishisaka, 2020).
In 1778, the year that Captain James Cook of England arrived, the estimated population of Hawaiians was between 400,000 and 800,000. In 1893 U.S. naval forces overthrew the monarchy originally founded in 1810 by King Kamehameha I, then in 1898 the Hawaiian islands were annexed by the United States as the Republic of Hawai'i. Much like the experience of Native Americans, European diseases introduced by colonization brought the population down to 29,800 Native Hawaiians and another 7,800 Hawaiians of mixed ancestry by 1900. Today, Native Hawaiians in Hawaii experience lower incomes, have the highest unemployment rate, and hold lower status jobs when compared to all ethnic groups in the islands. As is the case with other marginalized groups, this lower socioeconomic position leaves Native Hawaiians more vulnerable to health disparities such as lower mortality rates and higher rates of disease and cancer (Lai & Arguelles, 2003).
As an indigenous minority group, Native Hawaiians are recognized as having a "special trust relationship" with the U.S. government, similar to Native American Indians (along with Native Alaskans), entitling them to special programs and resources. However, in February 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed established policies of the U.S. Congress and ruled that the composition of the trustees who control Native Hawaiian rights and entitlements (the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, or OHA) was unconstitutional because they were based on racial identity qualifications. This decision basically throws into question the fundamental rights of Native Hawaiians.
In light of the ruling, Hawai'i's two Senators, Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye introduced the "Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act" (aka the "Akaka Bill") before Congress in 2000. The bill would formally extend the federal policy of self-determination to Native Hawaiians and put them on the same legal status as Native American Indians. Opponents of the bill argue that it promotes racial/ethnic separatism and that similar to debates about affirmative action, non-Hawaiians should not unfairly bear the consequences of reconciling events that occurred several generations ago.
Hawaiians have a saying, Aloha mai no, aloha aku -- When love is given, love should be returned. Sovereignty supporters believe that now is the time for aloha to be acknowledged and returned to the Native Hawaiian people and their descendents. The Akaka bill would provide an avenue for both the people of Hawai'i and the U.S. Congress to correct the historical injustices they have suffered collectively as a people, and enable them to exercise self-determination through self-governance, in order to heal as a people.
The House version of the bill (H.R. 505) passed on October 24, 2007 and the Senate version is still being considered.
Samoans & Guamanians
According to the United States Census Bureau, there are approximately 204,000 Samoan people including those with partial Samoan ancestry and about 160,000 Guamanians in the United States (United States Census Bureau, 2019).
Like the Native Hawaiians, they are considered Polynesians, and are theorized to have migrated from the west (the East Indies, the Malay peninsula or the Philippines) as far back ago as 1,000 B.C.E. Today, the islands are divided up into American Samoa and Samoa. The former is only 76 square miles, has a population of around 67,000, and sends a delegate to the U.S. Congress. Samoa, known as Western Samoa until 1997, is an independent nation with islands totaling 1,090 square miles, and a population of 179,058.
The economy of American Samoa remains undeveloped; nearly one-third of workers are employed in the fishing or canning industry. Tourism has not taken off. In recent years, one of American Samoa's main exports has been football players. There are more than 200 playing Division I college football, and 28 in the NFL, reported ESPN in 2002. Perhaps the most famous has been linebacker Tiaina "Junior" Seau.
After Samoans, the next-largest NHPI group are the natives of the island of Guam, also known as Chamorro. There are only about 157,000 people living on today's multicultural Guam, of whom about half are Chamorro. So like American Samoa, a larger number of Chamorro actually live abroad-in the U.S., there are nearly 93,000 people of pure or part-Chamorro descent.
Today the U.S. military maintains a large, albeit declining, presence in Guam, with 23,000 military personnel and their families living on the island. Though the government has lobbied to free Guam from its "unincorporated" U.S. territory status, the island has yet to be granted the Commonwealth recognition given Puerto Rico. And although the people are given U.S. citizenship, they do not vote in U.S. presidential elections. Economically, the growing tourist industry catering to Japanese visitors has helped offset the military downsizing.
Contributors and Attributions
Works Cited & Recommended for Further Reading
- Anderson, W., Johnson, M., & Brookes, B. (Eds.). (2018). Pacific Futures: Past and Present. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai'i Press.
- Wang, C. (2013). Transpacific Articulations: Student Migration and the Remaking of Asian America. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai'i Press.
- Aguilar-San Juan, K. (2009). Little Saigons: Staying Vietnamese in America. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
- Chang, S.H. (2015). Raising Mixed Race: Multiracial Asian Children in a Post-Racial World. New York, NY: Routledge.
- Fojas, C., Rudy P. Guevarra Jr., R.P., & Tamar Sharma, N. (Eds.). (2019). Beyond Ethnicity: New Politics of Race in Hawai‘i. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai'i Press.