Hawaii ranks 4th
in foreign-born residents
Hawaii has the fourth-largest percentage of foreign-born residents -- 17.9 percent -- in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.
And the 2000 census shows the overwhelming majority of Hawaii's foreign-born population is from Asia.
The City & County of Honolulu placed 44th among 231 counties surveyed nationwide with 19.6 percent of the population being foreign-born.
Urban Honolulu ranked 15th among 68 cities, with 25.5 percent of its population being born in another country.
California tops the list with 26.9 percent of its population being foreign-born. New York ranks second with 20.9 percent, while New Jersey is third with 18.9 percent.
Hawaii tied with Florida at 17.9 percent.
Overall, 11.8 percent, or 33 million, of the U.S. population is foreign-born.
The ACS surveyed more than 742,000 American households last year and is slated to replace the census long form in 2010.
In Hawaii, "our largest immigration population is from the Philippines, which makes up 50 percent of all incoming immigrants," said Dominic Inocelda, program administrator for the Susannah Wesley Community Center, a private nonprofit agency contracted by the state to provide immigrant services.
Incoming immigrants number between 7,000 and 8,000 annually, he said.
"Numerically, they have the potential for becoming the dominant group in Hawaii," said Belinda Aquino, University of Hawaii professor and director of the Center for Philippine Studies. "If you translate that to voting, they can become a political force. More and more Philippine-born citizens are have been running for office."
Census Bureau Director Louis Kincannon said in a news release: "These data provide a moving picture of one of the fastest-growing population segments in the United States, and they give leaders in government and business the knowledge they need to plan for the changes that population growth brings."
Hawaii has had a long history of immigration from Portugal, China, Japan, Korea and the Philippines, many of which provided labor for its plantations.
As far as recent immigration in Hawaii, Inocelda said one of the largest groups arriving are the Micronesians, including those from the Federated States of Micronesia, as well as Palauans and Marshallese.
Estimates of the number of Micronesians living in Hawaii range from 9,000 to 15,000, but they are difficult to track since they are not permanent resident aliens, Inocelda said. Many come for medical care, and travel back and forth between Hawaii and their place of origin.
Many Micronesians are struggling to adjust to life here in the areas of education, employment and medical services, Inocelda said.
Hawaii has also had an influx of Koreans, Western Samoans and a smaller number of Chinese, Inocelda said.
Other immigrant groups like the Vietnamese and Cambodians came as refugees beginning in 1975 with the fall of Vietnam, but many Cambodians have left the islands, he said, while many Laotians now farm in areas like Kahuku, Waimanalo and Waianae.
There are also a number of transient Mexican workers on the Big Island and Maui and a smaller group on Oahu, he said.