Senator Mazie K Hirono participated in the Senate Judiciary Committee's first hearing on the immigration reform bill that was introduced this week, arguing the bill as written does not do enough to reunite families. The bill eliminates family immigration categories that allow immigrants to call their adult siblings or adult children to this country. In her remarks, Hirono argued that family unity is vital to ensuring immigrants can be successful members of our country's economy.
"Family unity is very much a part of economic success for immigrants. Family unity issues and economic success are not either or propositions," Hirono argued at the hearing. "This bill will help some families reunite, but for others -- especially from Asian countries -- it will dramatically restrict the ability of families to reunite with certain loved ones, which has been the basis of our immigration system since 1965."
Hirono, an immigrant herself, came to this country from Japan with her mother and older brother as a young girl and has been an outspoken advocate for family unity in the immigration debate. The immigration reform bill introduced this week would replace immigration categories for adult siblings and children with a new merit-based system.
"I believe the new merit based visa system could exclude many immigrant family members from reuniting with their United States citizen siblings," Hirono remarked. "This is troubling, because siblings are an integral part of family structure. They help each other find jobs, provide emotional and financial support and care for each other's families. In addition, a sibling may be your only family member."
At the hearing, Hirono also argued that a final immigration reform bill should extend immigration rights to LGBT families and cut the backlogs for the children of Filipino World War II veterans.