The traditional Hawaiian value “hookipa” means to welcome visitors and strangers alike with open-hearted hospitality.
That value prompted state lawmakers to push a resolution to make Hawaii a sanctuary state, honoring Hawaii’s history as a home to a diverse group of immigrants who dramatically shaped the island state’s economy and culture.
The resolution recognizes the hookipa tradition and doesn’t specifically use the words “sanctuary state,” said Democratic Rep. Joy San Buenaventura, who introduced the resolution.
The proposal urges law enforcement agencies in Hawaii to not work with federal immigration agencies. It says they should not spend state or county funds to work with federal agencies on deporting people who live in the country without legal permission and have not been convicted of a violent crime.
“The idea behind the resolution is to assuage fears that people are just not going to be picked off,” said San Buenaventura.
“We have a labor force that are dependent on immigrants and families that are in fact immigrants,” she added. “They shouldn’t be scared of their own government.”
Lawmakers in about 15 states and the District of Columbia are pushing proposals to support sanctuary policies, while 29 states are considering policies to prohibit them, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Oregon was the first to establish statewide sanctuary in 1987, and San Francisco was the first city to adopt a sanctuary policy in 1989.
Hawaii immigration lawyer John Egan says his office has received calls from people who are afraid to answer the door because they may be in jeopardy of deportation. Many in Hawaii have family members with a mix of different immigration statuses, so “when one person is feeling the pressure, it spreads throughout the whole family group,” Egan said.
Some opponents fear taking such a stance could risk federal funding, which supplies 20 percent of Hawaii’s state budget. The proposal is just another way Trump opponents are trying to delegitimize the president, said Republican Rep. Gene Ward, who voted against the resolution.
“Hawaii’s already marginalized with the Trump administration,” Ward said. “Why would we want to do it more? We need their money. We need their good will.”
The resolution was introduced in response to President Donald Trump’s travel ban which suspends visas from six predominantly-Muslim countries, San Buenaventura said.
The Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee approved the resolution Wednesday. It goes next to the full Senate for a vote, and then back to the House where it already passed to review Senate amendments.
At the Wednesday hearing, John Kawamoto, representing the grassroots organization Hawaii J20+, said a Maui mother who moved from Mexico in 2006 and overstayed her visa recently received a deportation notice. She’s working to support three minor children who were born here and are U.S. citizens, he said.
“Something is wrong with a federal policy that can tear a mother away from her young children,” Kawamoto said.