Hawaii is facing election time with a wide range of candidates from a variety of backgrounds. Colleen Hanabusa, Tulsi Gabbard, and Mufi Hannemann are seeking a place in Congress while Mazie Hirono hopes to be elected senator. The range of ethnicities among the candidates reflects the range of ethnicities present across Hawaii, but some residents and experts are claiming that Republicans are taking a tough immigration stance in Hawaii – a stance that seems perplexing given that the party needs Hispanic votes to win. The immigration stance is also puzzling given that Hawaii has never had the tough stance of states such as Arizona.
In Hawaii, people are also eagerly awaiting the US Supreme Court decision about Arizona’s immigration laws. Arizona has passed laws which allow police to randomly check people for immigration status if they believe that someone is in the country illegally. While many support the law across the US, saying that the federal government does too little to stop undocumented immigration, many in Hawaii oppose Arizona-style immigration laws. Even President Barack Obama, who was raised in Hawaii, has spoken out against the Arizona laws.
The immigration picture is changing in other ways. Although the past five presidents have promised to make immigration changes, immigration laws have been slow to change. One recent difference is that under the current administration more people have been deported from the US than ever before. Another important change is economic. Due to the current economic conditions, fewer people are entering the US than ever before.
In an election year, the Hispanic demographic is important for candidates. However, few candidates are actively expressing opinions about how to improve the lot of immigrants. Many voters are looking at Republican ideas of tough immigration laws with alarm. When the US Supreme Court case regarding the Arizona law is decided, it can affect state laws. If the Arizona law is upheld, it is possible and even likely that other states will follow suit with their own tougher immigration laws. While it seems unlikely that Hawaii will be one of those states, state residents are worried about the stance on immigration overall.
Some residents are also frustrated by the lack of positive, forward action on the issue. While all lawmakers promise change, change has been slow in coming. Even president Obama has admitted that he has not been able to make all the changes he wanted – including, notably, the passing of the DREAM Act – due to opposition in Congress. Some residents accuse candidates of speaking in platitudes about the issue rather than suggesting specific changes. There is no doubt that immigration will be an important issue in the upcoming elections, but recent events also suggest that it will be far from a cut-and-dried issue.