Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) today brought together community stakeholders at a comprehensive immigration reform forum to discuss Hawai"i's unique needs. Local representatives from the Hawai"i Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Catholic Charities Hawai"i and Gabriela Andrade, a young woman with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, contributed to the discussion. Faith Action for Community Equity, who provided outreach and assistance to qualify DACA youth, were also in attendance.
"Our immigration system is clearly broken," said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. "Reform is crucial to our families, small businesses, and our economy in Hawai"i. It is unacceptable that families often wait decades to reunite with their loved ones. It hurts our economy when small businesses face unnecessary draconian audits and automatic categorization as fraudulent entities simply due to their size. We must address the unique immigration issues in Hawai"i as part of the national reform legislation in order to reunite families and grow our local economy."
"Being granted DACA status last September was a major milestone on my journey toward acceptance as an American," said Gabriela Andrade, a young woman with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status. "It allowed me to get a driver's license and a work permit, but most importantly it empowered me to step up and speak out about my status without fear of deportation and take an active role in the fight for immigrant rights. However, this is only a temporary measure that needs to be replaced by a thorough reform of the current Immigration system and provide us with a speedy and clear path to citizenship."
"Most of the new immigrants coming to Hawaii were sponsored to come here by close family members," said Maile M. Hirota, Hawai"i Chapter Chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "This means husbands, wives, sons and daughters, and brother and sisters. And yet our current system keeps families apart for years. A mother or father trying to bring a married son or daughter from the Philippines will have to wait 21 years for them to be eligible for a green card here. Our system tears families apart. We support eliminating the years of separation for families by reforming the family based immigration system."
Immigration is a federal issue affecting all fifty states and it is not only a mainland problem. However, current immigration laws have had a negative impact on the people of Hawai"i. If all unauthorized immigrants in Hawai"i were removed, the state would lose $2 billion in economic activity, $900 million in gross state product and about 8,460 jobs, according to economic analysis firm The Perryman Group.