Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mexicans in Hawaii? New Report Finds that Mexican-Origin Residents of Hawaiʻi Fare Better than Mexican Counterparts on Mainland, But Less Well than Overall State Population


The Mexican-origin community in Hawaiʻi represents a small but growing population in this multi-ethnic state, rising 165 percent since 1990, according to a new report by the Migration Policy Institute, an independent think tank in Washington, DC that analyzes immigration trends and policy in the U.S. and internationally. The report released today presents a unique demographic, socioeconomic and cultural profile of a Mexican-origin population that in many ways has different outcomes than Mexican-origin counterparts in the continental United States.

While Hawaiʻi’s Mexican-origin residents (foreign born as well as the U.S.-born of Mexican ancestry) have higher employment, reduced poverty, higher levels of English proficiency and educational attainment, and lower incidences of unauthorized status than their Mexican-origin counterparts on the U.S. continent, they fare less well than the overall population of Hawaiʻi across a range of socioeconomic metrics, researchers for MPI and the Ethnic Studies Department in the College of Social Sciences at the University of Hawaiʻi found.

Hawai‘i Governor Neil Abercrombie said: “This report, the result of collaboration between the D.C.-based Migration Policy Institute and the University of Hawaii, provides insightful data on our Mexican-origin community and experiences as ‘newcomer’ residents to the Aloha State. In Hawaii, we recognize that our diversity defines rather than divides us. These findings will inform our decisions in addressing the needs of this valued and growing facet of our community as its members contribute to our island culture and economy.”

The report, Newcomers to the Aloha State: Challenges and Prospects for Mexicans in Hawaiʻi, draws on a qualitative survey, in-depth interviews and analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data to examine the state’s growing population of residents of Mexican origin, which stood at approximately 38,700 based on analysis of 2009-2011 American Community Survey data. Mexican-origin civilian workers work primarily in Hawaiʻi’s tourism-related industries and construction — the two industries that felt the impact of the 2007-2009 recession earlier and harder, leading to higher unemployment than the state average.

Residents of Mexican origin are also more likely than the overall population to be in poor or low-income households, and are less likely to live in their own homes. “Our research suggests that many Mexicans, especially those who are immigrants, occupy the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder, along with three other traditionally marginalized groups: Filipinos, Native Hawaiians and Micronesians,” said report co-author Monisha Das Gupta, associate professor of ethnic studies and women’s studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

Among the report’s findings:

The majority of Mexican-origin residents in Hawaiʻi have lawful U.S. immigration status, but many feel targeted by immigration enforcement authorities.  About nine in ten Mexican-origin residents in Hawaiʻi are U.S. citizens by birth or naturalization. Only a small number are unauthorized, representing 10 percent of the state’s estimated 40,000 unauthorized immigrants. By contrast, in the continental United States, 58 percent of the estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants are from Mexico.

Despite the high proportion of U.S.-born and legally present Mexicans in Hawaiʻi and small share of the unauthorized population, interviews indicated members of this community feel they have been disproportionately targeted by immigration and local law enforcement officers for detention and deportation.

Mexican-origin residents are dispersed within and across the islands, with two-thirds living on Oʻahu. On Maui and the Big Island, certain towns are associated with Mexican residents even as they live in ethnically mixed neighborhoods.Mexican residents’ mobility from island to island is restricted because of the expense of air travel and, in the case of the unauthorized population, due to the risk of immigration enforcement-related surveillance at airports. These barriers to air travel make it difficult for Mexican residents of other islands to access critical services offered only in Honolulu, including health care and immigration-related services.



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