Reform on aliens concerns delegates
Family issues rule isle focus on immigration legislation
Few issues are as hotly debated in Congress these days as immigration reform, and Hawaii's congressional delegation is keeping close tabs on the flood of amendments.
As debate resumes after the Memorial Day recess, isle congressmen said, any final proposal would have to address concerns about reunifying families.
"The final shape of the measure and how it addresses family reunification will strongly influence how I will vote," remarked U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye.
Supporters narrowly beat back potentially fatal challenges last week -- one to end the temporary worker program after five years.
Members of Hawaii's congressional delegation are keeping a close eye on the ever-changing immigration reform bill being debated in the Senate.
But they say any final proposal would have to address concerns on family reunification to win their support.
"The success of any community -- and any nation -- is family unity," U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye said. "The final shape of the measure and how it addresses family reunification will strongly influence how I will vote."
Inouye's Democratic colleague, U.S. Daniel Akaka, also is monitoring the legislation as work continues on the compromise proposal struck earlier this month.
The proposal already has undergone several amendments, with further crafting expected when the Senate resumes work after the Memorial Day recess.
Supporters narrowly beat back potentially fatal challenges last week -- one to end the temporary worker program after five years, and another to allow government authorities to question people about their immigration status if there is probable cause to suspect them of being in the United States illegally.
The razor-thin votes, both 49-48, illustrated the tenuous nature of the immigration measure, which would grant an estimated 12 million unlawful immigrants legal status while improving border security and workplace enforcement. But the defeats also showed the durability of the unlikely coalition that cut the deal and is fiercely lobbying rank-and-file senators to preserve it.
Other amendments approved last week included one introduced by Akaka that allows children of Filipino World War II veterans to join their parents in the United States.
That provision also has support in the House, where U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono has introduced similar legislation backed by fellow Democratic U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie.
Both House members say they share some of the concerns as their Senate counterparts.
"I want to make sure that family reunification is very much a core principle in any immigration law that is being enacted," Hirono said.
The immigration overhaul would alter the rules governing automatic family reunification, or being eligible for a visa because of a relative. Eligibility would be limited to spouses and minor children of American citizens; others would have to meet additional criteria.
Abercrombie said the current debate in the Senate shows the level of interest and the far-reaching impact that such legislation would have all across the country.
"It's one of those pieces of legislation that everybody not only has an opinion, but has very strong views on various aspects of the legislation," he said. "They all have to be taken into account."
But he said taking all the viewpoints into consideration might have done more harm than good.
"It's just chaotic," he said.
Abercrombie, chairman of the Immigration Task Force of the Asian Pacific American Caucus, said House members are following the Senate debate but would likely back its own measure.
"The House is going to support its own version, on the basis that the Senate bill has destroyed itself," he said. "Whatever comes over simply won't work -- if it comes over.
"We're just going to keep working on our side on something that can gain a consensus."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.