For our third installment of immigration stories, we’re sharing a story from Chuukese interpreter Dania. Dania’s parents hail from Chuuk, as she explains so well below, where they took a chance and traveled to the U.S. under the Federated States of Micronesia agreement. Thanks to Dania for sharing her story with us!
Chuuk Lagoon measures 822 square miles in area and 40 miles in diameter. It is located mid-ocean at 7 degrees North latitude and is known as Chuuk State, one of four states within the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). The FSM is located on the Caroline Islands in the western Pacific Ocean.
From 1947 to 1986, these islands became part of a United Nations trust territory called the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. The trusteeship was terminated in 1986, when the FSM and the United States entered into a Compact of Free Association agreement that guaranteed financial assistance to the FSM in exchange for U.S. authority over matters of security and defense through the year 2000.
With the evolution of the Geneva Convention, Compact of Free Association, and President Kennedy’s Pell Grant aids, a lot of aspiring FSM students were granted an opportunity to go to the U.S. In the summer of 1973, a young 23-year-old Chuukese man named Daniel Rescue was one of them, ready to take on the opportunities abroad. He packed his bag and said farewell to his family and boarded a plane to the United States of America. Armed only with an FSM passport, Form I-20, and $26 in his pocket, off he went. Amongst the passengers was also a 22-year-old woman named Cecilia Isin, who later became my mother. We consider them the first generation of immigrants. Together, my parents left the comfort of their home islands and headed to the new foreign world. They chose to honor their sacrifices by seeking a better life in the U.S.
When they arrived in the U.S., they were both sponsored by a family in Hancock, Michigan, and attended Suomi College. Daniel would often reminisce about the island life when cold and harsh winters would hit the Great Lakes state. But just after two years and upon receiving his associate degree, he was ready to face the world.
In the summer of 1975, Daniel and Cecilia traveled back home to Chuuk to get married and have my oldest brother, Daniel Rescue Jr. Shortly after returning to Michigan in 1977, they relocated to Honolulu, Hawaii, to attend the University of Hawaii. Daniel was eventually hired by the FSM to work at the consulate general’s office in Honolulu. Their immigration status was changed from I-20 to consulate staff. In 1981, my second oldest brother, Dan Henry Rescue, was born in Honolulu. I was also born in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1982. The Rescues’ immigration status changed again when the Compact of Free Association was signed into law on November 13, 1986, by the U.S. Congress. For over three decades, the Rescues have sponsored and brought over four generations of family to also pursue educational and work opportunities in the U.S. They all have flourished and have had families of their own.
The Compact of Free Association agreement between FSM and the U.S. allowed my parents to build a bridge of opportunity for others in our family to come to the U.S., to receive a proper education and occupational skills, and to go back home to Chuuk and contribute to improving the well-being of our islands.
Don’t forget to check out the other stories we’ve shared, and watch We The People, a documentary web series that highlights the experiences immigrants face when they move to the U.S.