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Migration of Communities and US Control of Pacific


Migration is often portrayed as a process caused by the country’s poverty and lack of opportunities. Yet, the causes which have impacted a particular nation’s difficulties are rarely illustrated. An example of the cause of mass migration is the US’s aim to control the Pacific and its desire to expand imperialistic premises on foreign territories. The nations that have been affected were the Pacific South Asian states and China. Migration was prevalent in multiple forms depending on the time period and the overall form in which it was executed. On the one hand, the US aimed to replace enslaved people with a labor force from China and other Pacific countries. On the other hand, the result of colonization created environments in which native populations did not have the resources to live prosperously in their own regions, leaving them with the only opportunity to move to the US. This paper argues that hegemony was the cause of the mass migration of communities to the US, which directly exemplifies how a stronger nation has a devastating impact on a country, which then influences natives to migrate.

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It is important to mention that the initial purpose of creating conditions for “migration,” which is now considered human trafficking, was to replace the priorly enslaved Africans with Chinese and South Asian laborers. Thus, individuals from impoverished Pacific regions would sign contracts for prolonged periods of time and ship to locations either controlled by America, Britain, Portugal, or Spain (Odo and Okihiro 21). As a result, mass migrations have been intended to become an opportunity for these nations to receive free or low-paid workers, ultimately influencing the more powerful countries to take advantage of the vulnerable Pacific nations. The process, which resembles the African slave trade, was somehow legitimized through contracts that people were often tricked into signing. Needless to say, such factors, alongside the Opium wars in China and other forms of trade, had a negative impact on the communities, both from the perspective of the workers who have been abused and violated and the families who were often left without means for survival in their native regions.


While in the case of China in the 19th century, human trade and unlawful violence were masked under the label of migration, mass migration from the Philippines has a different cause. The Philippine-American War had a devastating effect on the Philippines, with multiple deaths, burned properties, and a cholera epidemic (Mabalon 25). Thus, the population was struggling financially, which led to local migration to the capital, Manila, and a subsequent necessity to move to more prosperous countries with the intent to escape the aftermath of the war. The US militarism ideology that was prevalent in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century and aimed towards colonization and control of Pacific nations has ultimately created an environment in which native communities living in the Philippines had no other options but to migrate to the states. If the militarism of the US did not have such a negative impact on the pacific regions, the natives would not have been influenced into migrating in the first place. The situation exemplifies how hegemony contributes to such circumstances in which the more powerful nation disrupts a less militarily and economically developed one, gains power over its resources, and ultimately creates conditions under which entire communities do not have the means to survive unless they relocate. In this case, the most logical solution was migrating to the nation that initiated poverty and destruction in the first place.


The imperialistic agenda of the US resulted in the acquisition of the Philippines after the country was a colony of Spain. Since it became a US colony, specific regulations and laws related to migration to America did not cover the colony. This facilitated mass migration of Filipinos since they were considered nationals, unlike other Pacific nations that did not have the same opportunities and legal right to opt for relocating to the US (Mabalon 28). The US, however, as exemplified by history, did not have the objective of allowing foreign values and cultures to penetrate the “American” system. Thus, multiple measures have been taken to integrate the people of the Philippines into the US by creating educational, political, and social changes toward a more westernized nation. Based on this premise, migration was not a process that encouraged diversity but rather facilitated the inclusion of the Pacific nations under the conditions of maintaining an American overview of religion, culture, and society as a whole.


History shows that the mass migration of Pacific communities to the US was often facilitated by the US itself. First, the aim to replace enslaved Africans with Chinese and South Asian laborers has led to migration that is closer to human trafficking rather than relocation to another state. Moreover, in the case of the colonization of the Philippines, the militarism ideology and imperialistic views resulted in a war that devastated the country. People had to escape poverty, and mass migration was a direct outcome of US foreign politics. Thus, expansionism, imperialism, and militarization are often facilitators of migration.

Works Cited

Mabalon, Dawn Bohulano. Little Manila Is in the Heart: The Making of the Filipina/O American Community in Stockton, California. Duke University Press, 2013.

Okihiro, Gary Y. Finding a Path Forward, Asian American and Pacific Islander National Historic Landmarks Theme Study. Edited by Franklin Odo, National Historic Landmarks Program, National Park Service, US Department of the Interior, 2017.

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