Hawaii refrains from joining anti-illegal alien bandwagon
The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that legislatures enacted 170 measures concerning immigration.
RESPONDING to the failure of Congress to act on immigration reform, many states and municipalities have begun to grapple with the issue. Whether because of worker shortage or liberal leanings, the Hawaii Legislature has turned the other way, contrary to impressions left in a new nationwide survey.
The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that state legislatures considered 1,404 immigration measures this year and enacted 170 of them, including 18 measures approved by the Hawaii Legislature. State lawmakers elsewhere adopted measures to curb employment of unauthorized immigrants and make it more difficult for them to obtain state identification documents, such as driver's licenses.
However, the Hawaii measures can hardly be interpreted as a crackdown on illegal aliens. For example, a Hawaii bill that the NCSL says "excludes certain alien agricultural workers" from receiving unemployment benefits actually stops forcing them to pay into the program "even though they will never qualify to collect unemployment benefits."
The report also cites a new law that it says requires that all persons seeking jobs with the state or any county "must be citizens, nationals or permanent residents of the United States or eligible under federal law for unrestricted employment in the United States."
Actually, the new law is less restrictive than the old one, which required that anybody applying for a Hawaii state job must be a Hawaii resident. The American Civil Liberties Union in Hawaii challenged the law on behalf of out-of-state applicants from Florida, and U.S. District Judge David Ezra ruled in June 2006 that it was unconstitutional.
The only other bill approved by the Legislature, signed into law by Gov. Linda Lingle and cited by the NCSL was to create a pilot program providing health-care coverage for all children in Hawaii, including aliens who have only temporary visas or who lack documentation of any kind. Children should not be refused health care, regardless of their alien status.
The 15 other "measures" cited by the NCSL were resolutions, some of them duplicated in each chamber, which have no effect except to urge that Congress or the Bush administration act -- or decline to act -- on certain immigration issues. The Senate approved two forms of a resolution opposing creation of a national identification card and asking for repeal of the 2005 Real ID Act, which would require states to conform with driver's licenses requirements, at each state's sizable expense.
Some state legislatures approved measures aimed a cracking down on companies that employ illegal aliens or denying them state contracts. Others made it more difficult for illegal aliens to obtain driver's licenses or medical aid. In some localities, police are checking the status of people they stop to determine their alien status.
That tide has yet to hit Hawaii's shores.