President Trump’s recent vulgarity regarding some countries was shocking, to say the least, but it was only the latest in his continuing verbal assault on minority racial, ethnic and religious groups.

Trump’s noxious rhetoric has a subtext of bigotry that must be opposed so that we can retain basic principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence: Equality. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

In Hawaii, we call it aloha.

Japanese immigrants to Hawaii in the 1940s. The author hopes the Legislature will pass a bill to ease fears of migration under the Trump administration. Flickr: chiyomaruko1

Trump’s Muslim travel ban has been covered extensively in the news, but less attention has been given to the executive order he signed only five days after he was inaugurated. That order seeks to deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are already living in the United States.

President Obama was responsible for deporting more than 2 million undocumented immigrants, but was focused on those who had committed serious crimes. The Trump executive order seeks to deport all 11 million of them.

Overstaying Visas

Immigrants are undocumented because they either crossed the border without being processed, which is a misdemeanor, or they entered our country with a visa and overstayed their visa, which is not a crime. Nationally, most of the recent undocumented immigrants have overstayed their visas.

Two-thirds of the adult undocumented immigrants have been living in the U.S. for 10 years or more. Many have married U.S. citizens, and many more have children who are U.S. citizens by birth. Deporting all undocumented immigrants would result in them leaving behind families that include U.S. citizens who depend on them for support.

The American Immigration Council estimates that 45,000 undocumented immigrants live in Hawaii. The great majority have overstayed their visas.

“Two-thirds of the adult undocumented immigrants have been living in the U.S. for 10 years or more.”

About 45 percent are from the Philippines, 15 percent from Japan and most of the rest are from other Asian and Pacific nations. They live and work in our communities and pay taxes. Researchers have found that the crime rate of undocumented immigrants is lower than that of native-born U.S. citizens.

The Trump executive order also attempts to deputize local police to act as federal immigration enforcement agents to assist in the deportation of undocumented immigrants. County police officers, for example, would be able to ask anyone they come into contact with about their immigration status.

For undocumented immigrants, that would likely begin the process of deportation. For that reason, they now fear contact with the police. If they see a crime or a suspected crime, they would be reluctant to report it to the police. They would also be reluctant to come forward as witnesses to crimes. As a result, our communities have become less safe for everyone.

To counter Trump’s executive order, the hookipa (“welcoming”) bill has been introduced in the Hawaii Legislature. It is Senate Bill 2290 and its companion is House Bill 1994.

The bill seeks to minimize the fear among undocumented immigrants and maintain community safety that is threatened by Trump’s executive order. The bill cannot control the federal government, but it can limit the state and counties from being complicit, and it can limit their efforts to assist in the deportation of undocumented immigrants who have not committed any crime.

Immigrants have played a significant role in more than 100 years of Hawaii’s history. Immigrants came to Hawaii determined to work hard so they could secure better lives for themselves and their children, and many succeeded. They helped to create our unique multicultural society.

The hookipa bill seeks to keep Hawaii’s rich immigrant heritage alive.

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