Hawaii J-20+ Testimony of Supporting SB 557

Senate Committee on Ways and Means

Monday, February 25, 10:30AM in conference room 211

Hawaii J-20+ is a grassroots organization committed to preserving constitutional principles and community values.

Our nation is sorely divided. However, Republicans and Democrats agree on one issue: The federal immigration system is broken and needs an overhaul.

We in Hawaii celebrate our immigrant heritage. One in six Hawaii residents is an immigrant. Many more of us have ancestors who immigrated to Hawaii, often from economically deprived regions, willing to work hard and make better lives for themselves.

Many of us view current federal immigration practices as cruel and inhumane. We recoil at reports of families separated at the border, and we sympathize with the families of immigrants who have been deported. Andres Ortiz, a coffee farmer in Kona and a pillar of the community, who was originally from Mexico, faced deportation and had to leave his wife and children in Hawaii, who are all U.S. citizens.

One in five immigrants to Hawaii is undocumented---either because they crossed the border without being processed, which is a misdemeanor, or they entered the U.S. with a visa and overstayed, which is not a crime. Most undocumented immigrants in Hawaii overstay their visas. Nevertheless, they live in fear because President Trump signed an executive order that seeks to deport them.

Immigration is a federal function, paid for by federal taxes. States, cities, and counties have no statutory role in immigration. Yet Trump's executive order seeks to deputize local police to act as federal immigration agents, without reimbursing the state or counties. The executive order, in effect, taxes us twice for immigration enforcement.

The executive order raises fear among undocumented immigrants because local police deputized as federal immigration agents can ask anyone for their immigration status and report them for deportation. Trust among police and undocumented immigrants has been severed. Undocumented immigrants are reluctant to report crimes and come forth as witnesses to crimes, making our communities are less safe for everyone.

The State Legislature has no influence on federal immigration policy, but this does not mean that state and local taxes should be used to deport people living lawfully among us. Hundreds of cities and counties across the country -- as well as several states -- have adopted "sanctuary" legislation. Such legislation does not provide undocumented immigrants with special protections, but simply limits the assistance that local law enforcement agencies provide to federal immigration enforcement agencies.

Sanctuary legislation is constitutional. The Tenth Amendment prohibits the federal government from coercing states or local governments to implement or enforce federal programs. Based on the Tenth Amendment, Trump’s executive order has been ruled to be unconstitutional.

The great majority of undocumented immigrants behave as good citizens. Two-thirds of undocumented adults have lived here at least 10 years. Many have married American citizens. Many more have children who are American citizens by birth. They have jobs and they pay taxes. The crime rate of undocumented immigrants is far below that of native-born citizens.

It is time to enhance community safety and protect taxpayers. SB 557 limits the assistance state and local law enforcement agencies provide to the federal government. It is a solid piece of legislation modeled on the California sanctuary law, which was ruled to be constitutional.

Immigration created the multicultural society we enjoy in Hawaii nei. Let's extend aloha to undocumented immigrants who are living peaceably among us.

Hawaii J-20+ supports SB 557 and urges the committee to pass it.

At a previous public hearing, testimony in opposition to the bill was submitted by the Honolulu Prosecutor and the Honolulu Police Department. In addition, the Attorney General submitted comments on the bill. The testimony by these agencies includes claims that we dispute in the attachment.