LIHUE — The state is taking a step back from setting up Hawaii as a sanctuary for illegal immigrants in the U.S., a decision people on Kauai were calling for as the topic moved through the Legislature.
Tuesday, House representative and chairman of the House Public Safety Committee Greg Takayama said his committee won’t be hearing a bill that would have made Hawaii the third sanctuary state in America.
And the same day, a couple of Kauai representatives sounded off on the issue.
“I received probably 30 calls and tests and emails regarding the bill,” said Rep. Jimmy Tokioka.
He said that’s just Kauai involvement, and that’s a fairly high level of engagement. He said he received more feedback from the rest of the state as well.
“Every single inquiry, request of me, was for me to vote against the bill,” Tokioka said. “A lot of people from my district had major concerns with Hawaii being a sanctuary sate.”
Takayama told the Associated Press Tuesday that because most law enforcement occurs at the county level, he believes it would be more appropriate for the counties and not the state to consider creating sanctuaries.
The bill would have prevented Hawaii law enforcement officers from stopping, questioning or interrogating someone based solely on suspected or actual citizenship status.
Across the United States — in places like Los Angeles and Philadelphia — governments have passed measures akin to the one Hawaii was considering.
Those measures focus law enforcement’s time on local crime rather than illegal immigration.
Under the bill that failed Tuesday, Hawaii law enforcement would have been allowed to help federal immigration officials if presented with a warrant. They also would have assisted if the individual immigration officials were seeking information on had a felony conviction or had been convicted of a misdemeanor within the past five years. They would have helped if there was probable cause to believe the person was engaged in terrorist activity, according to AP.
Hawaii law enforcement officers would be prevented from inquiring about the immigration status of crime victims, witnesses and those who approach the police for help. Exceptions would be made to investigate potential criminal activity by the person.
But Takayama said he thinks counties need to make those decisions, not the state.
“I didn’t think there is a compelling need for a state law in this area,” Takayama told AP.
Rep. Dee Morikawa said she agrees with Takayama, but didn’t comment further.
Tokioka said he spoke at length with Takayama about the issue, conveying the message that the Aloha State needs to make sure it is caring for its own before spreading that aloha on to others.
“We need to manage our resources better and make sure there’s enough resources for, in my case, people on Kauai,” Tokioka said. “Bringing more people to the state would not be good for people in need of resources on Kauai in my opinion.”
Jessica Else, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or at firstname.lastname@example.org