[snips]The Marshallese are on the lower economic rungs of SpringdaleÃÂs work force. During the night shift at Tyson FoodsÃÂ Randall Road plant, about half of the workers are islanders. They are also common on the factory floor of Rockline Industries, which makes baby wipes and scented tissues.
Marshallese immigrants benefit from extraordinarily close ties to the United States that were codified when the countries signed the Compact of Free Association in 1986, when the islands gained their independence. Marshallese are allowed to live and work in the United States indefinitely without visas. As a result, few of those who immigrate seek U.S. citizenship.
At Springdale public schools, the English as a Second Language program hired a Marshallese tutor in 1997 when the need became apparent.
Thousands of Marshallese have made the same choice. Working in chicken plants, factories and fast-food restaurants, they enjoy a lifestyle that only a few could afford back home. In Springdale public schools, their children get a better education than most of the top-ranked private-schools students on the islands.
Its unclear exactly how many Marshall Islanders call Springdale home. A special U.S. Census Bureau survey in 2001 indicated that there were 2,000 to 6,000 of the islanders in Springdale, a city that then had about 46,000 residents.
Since that survey, the influx has continued, islanders say. In the Springdale School District, the number of children speaking Marshallese as a first language grew from 226 in 2000 to 623 this fall.
Yet, the Marshallese often go unnoticed in Springdale, overshadowed by the 23,500 Hispanics who arrived in Northwest Arkansas during the 1990s.
Langs Marshallese neighbors open their garage doors on warm sunny days to reveal improvised living rooms where men and women lounge on couches. Children roam from home to home as if they all belong to one family.
On Springdales congested highways, a large number of cars have tall CB radio antennas. The radios are popular with Marshallese who use them to communicate just as they do back home where telephone service is unreliable. They have a CB radio group called Big Yokwe Big Hello.
Among the new subdivisions in Springdale, houses here and there have shoe racks on front porches piled high with flip-flops and work boots, a sure sign of Marshallese within. Lang said some problems arose in the early days of the Marshallese community. The first immigrants werent aware of U.S. private property rights. Some islanders drank heavily on the weekends and ended up on the wrong side of the law when they passed out in neighbors yards, he said. Most behavior like that soon stopped.
What was it about the road to Hell being paved with good intentions? This is a nightmare.
I spent a month on Majuro in the RMI back in 2000. I was shocked to see that leprosy still existed there. There were posters up everywhere for people to take their leprosy medicines and be treated. I saw a number of lepers walking around the island. It is one of the saddest places in the world and at that time life expectancy was around 48 years. I knew about the large group of Marshallese in Arkansas but it never occured to me that they may have brought leprosy with them.