INDENTURED MICRONESIANS: FACT OR EXAGGERATION?

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By Delihna I. Manuel

POHNPEI, FSM (October 3, 2002 - The Kaselehlie Press)---Lured by promises, Islanders go to America in search of education and employment; instead, they find poverty, misery and threat, according to the report by Willoughby Mariano and Walter F. Rochester Jr. of the Baltimore Sun.

According to sources sent to the Kaselehlie Press, a one-year investigation was conducted on recruitment of more than 2,000 Micronesians, from the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia for low paying jobs in America.

In the report "Body Brokers," as they are called, collect fees of up to $5,500 from employers such as nursing homes and Florida Amusement Parks for delivering each worker who signs a one or two-year contract to do low-paying jobs that Americans seldom will. Brokers or employers sometimes deduct fees for housing, transportation and unexplained service charges from worker’s pay.

According to BNN, like most newspaper accounts, the article was partially true. The source had spoken with several Micronesians, especially from Pohnpei recruited in nursing homes and found that most were happy to get high wages. A few lied on their applications just to be hired. According to Yalmer Helgenber, of Pohnpei Economic Affairs, who was mistakenly quoted as one of the Pohnpei Recruiters, he claimed that he has a niece who also went on the nursing program, whom he had spoken to personally and found out that she is doing great. She sends money home to her parents and even the parents agree that she is well off.

A source that wishes to remain anonymous said that she was paid well when she worked at the amusement park. She was informed of what to expect once she gets there. "Deductions were made from my paycheck, but that was to pay back the cost of my plane ticket which was also part of the agreement," said the source.

The report has raised lots of concerns to the Micronesians and of course everyone will want to know what their loved ones has gone out in search for. According to BNN, so far only the Republic of the Marshall Islands has responded to the report. According to Jack Yakana, Pohnpei State Lieutenant Governor, the Pohnpei State Government would surely look into the matter.

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