Daily Video

December 17, 2018

Human geography lesson: Why one-third of the Marshall Islands has left for the US



Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and then answer the discussion questions. Your students may find it helpful to follow along using the transcript.


Summary: The Marshall Islands is a Pacific archipelago of coral atolls midway between Hawaii and Australia. In recent years, one third of the Marshall Islands’ population has moved to the U.S., leaving a country reeling from high unemployment, poverty and the looming effects of climate change. The Marshallese community currently numbers around 30,000. Citizens of the Marshall Islands can live and work in the U.S. without visas and work permits based on a 1986 law called the Compact of Free Association, or COFA. Special Correspondent Mike Taibbi reports from the Marshall Islands and Salem, Oregon, where he talks with migrants about what it is like moving thousands of miles away to a new home.


Discussion questions: 


1) What are the main challenges prompting individuals and families to leave the Marshall Islands?


2) What is the difference between a migrant and an immigrant? Why are Marshall Island citizens to the U.S. considered migrants and not immigrants?


3) At the end of the video, Isaac Marty says, “It’s like two things pulling you in different directions. I’ve got the islands, and then my family. So I had to let one go so that I can have the other one.” What factors played a role in Marty’s decision to migrate? How might empathy play a role in your reaction to migrant stories like Marty’s?


4) Did you know about the human and environmental devastation caused by the U.S. military’s nuclear testing on the Marshall Islands in the 1940s and 1950s (Only one of over 60 islands was cleaned up by the U.S. government, and residents are still waiting for 2 billion dollars in compensation from the high levels of radiation that remain.)? What could you do if you wanted to find out more about this period of the Cold War?


5) Media literacy question: This news report by Mike Taibbi is nearly 12 minutes long. That’s about 10 more minutes than most broadcast news stations will spend on a story.

  • Why do you think the PBS NewsHour producers gave this amount of time to the story?

  • What information do you think Taibbi would have included if he had had just two-minute to complete the piece?

  • What information would not have made it into the story?

  • Do you think a 2-minute story would have affected how much you learned about the Marshall Islands and the lives of migrant’s like Isaac Marty? Explain.


6) What do you think it feels like to move to another place thousands of miles from your home? Did you or someone you know migrate or immigrate to the U.S.? What hopes and dreams do you think migrants to the U.S. from the Marshall Islands possess? What fears might they have?


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