Monday, April 14, 1997

Immigrant curb deals
with a real problem

A Star-Bulletin report last week told the story of Kim Nguyen, a 55-year-old Kaneohe woman who emigrated from Vietnam in 1968. Now a U.S. citizen, she has sponsored six distant relatives for entry into the country. However, her efforts to bring her long-lost son and daughter, their spouses and seven grandchildren to the U.S. have been stymied.

The problem is a law enacted last year that she says requires her to have an annual income of more than $56,000 or someone to share sponsorship in order for her to qualify as a sponsor for her family's immigration. Nguyen says she and her children became separated in 1964 when her Vietnamese husband left her, taking the children with him. She remarried, to an American, and came to the U.S. in 1968. She returned to Vietnam repeatedly to search for her children, finally locating them four months ago.

However, confronted with the new requirements for sponsorship, Nguyen finds herself unable to gain admittance for her family because her income isn't high enough. Perhaps the Hawaii congressional delegation can secure special legislation that will enable her to bring her family in.

The new law that is Nguyen's problem serves an important purpose: to prevent future immigrants from turning up on the welfare rolls, a situation that has been occurring with some frequency in recent years. That is not the result Congress or the voters intended when they established the requirements for immigration and is an abuse of the system.

The law addresses this problem by requiring sponsors of immigrants to earn at least 25 percent more than the federal poverty level and to sign an affidavit that they will be financially responsible for the people they sponsor. This means that the sponsors can be held legally accountable for the support of the people they bring in. This is entirely reasonable. The immigrants should be the responsibility of the sponsor, not the taxpayers.

This provision of the new law is clearly preferable to the new restrictions on welfare payments to legal immigrants. People who have been admitted to the United States but are not U.S. citizens are subject to the same laws as citizens and should be entitled to the same benefits as citizens -- as they always have been in the past. The target should be the sponsor who does not meet his responsibilities, not the legal immigrant.

Same-sex marriage

HOUSE-Senate negotiators have made significant progress toward an agreement on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. They should not let the accord that is within their reach slip through their fingers in the waning days of the legislative session.

It is not reasonable to let another year go by without action by the Legislature. It's time to make a deal.

Guns and abusers

THE Pentagon should follow the lead of the Honolulu Police Department when it comes to a new federal law prohibiting anyone convicted of domestic violence from possessing firearms or ammunition. Instead, the Defense Department wants the law changed to exempt the military. That request should be denied, since it would negate the very spirit of the legislation.

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

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