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December General Meeting (Sue Miller)
Drug Policy Study (Suzanne Meisenzahl)
Rail Is Not a Done Deal
Reaching Consensus on Immigration Policy - Part I (Jackie Parnell)
Welcome New Members
Public-Private Partnerships (Charles Carole)
Lies About Rail (Pearl Johnson)
Kokua Council Forum
Calendar of Events

Reaching Consensus on Immigration Policy - Part I

Part I

The national League of Women Voters has completed it study on immigration. Now it is time for us, as members of a local league, to educate ourselves and decide what our national League policy should be.

Before we start on the subject matter of immigration policy, we need to discuss the process. Consensus is the way the League develops positions. We don’t do it on a national level very often because we pretty well have positions on all the major issues.

The last national consensus took place about 15 years ago when we struggled to develop a policy on health care. It starts with a study of the issues. Then League members read the material, meet, and have discussions. And then we vote on it. Our deadline is January 2008. If we can’t reach consensus, Honolulu will not have a position on immigration policy.

The Honolulu League Board decided at its September meeting to use our already scheduled December 1st General Membership Planning Meeting to hold our consensus discussions.

The last local issue we tried to reach consensus on was Vote by Mail. Marian Wilkins did the study and both the Hawaii County League and the Honolulu League approved. However, Kauai had strong objections so we did not reach consensus and therefore have no position pro or con adopting vote by mail in Hawaii.

For the immigration study, the LWVUS recruited some intelligent ladies who wrote several papers discussing the various issues of immigration policy. I am going to discuss some of their findings in this and next month’s article. However, if you have access to a computer, do go to the League web site at www.lwv.org and check out the material there. The papers are well worth reading in their entirety. Particularly after all the hype and misinformation that has come out of Washington on the subject, it is a real pleasure to read careful research and dispassionate analysis on the subject.

Even if you don’t have a computer you can get connected at your local branch of the library. You can get a free email address from yahoo or hotmail or Google and you’re on your way. Copies of the papers and other study materials are also available at the League office.

The major issues of immigration policy are economic and humanitarian. Do immigrants hurt the economic prospects of American workers? Do they lower wages? There are research studies that show that they do. And other research that indicates the opposite. Mostly because immigrants frequently take jobs that Americans will not do. Not only that, there are simply not enough people to fill the entry-level jobs.

With all our concerns about overpopulation, population growth is happening only because of immigration- U.S. citizens have stopped having enough children to supply the labor market.

The other major issues of immigration center on humanitarian concerns. This includes the degree to which we should welcome refugees from political oppression, and is their simply wanting a better life justification for letting them in. Also, to what degree should we allow family members to join existing immigrants. And what do we do with illegal immigrants who are contributing to our economy even though they arrived without government sanction. Opponents make “amnesty” sound like a dirty word but surely we must address this issue intelligently and with compassion. Besides, it appears that we need them to do the work.

The United States is often called a nation of immigrants. And it is. Immigration policies have favored diversity of country of birth since 1965. The policies have both capped the number of immigrants from a given country and allowed for a “diversity lottery” to ensure at least some possibility of entry from all countries.

Despite these policies, Mexican-born immigrants were the predominant segment among the U.S. foreign-born population. The Philippines accounted for 4 percent or more of all foreign- born and 72 other countries accounted for the rest. Diversity is more evident in some regions than others. Cuban émigrés were predominant to a greater degree among Miami’s foreign born population in 2000 than those from Mexico in the U.S. as a whole..

Jackie Parnell, President
League of Women Voters of Hawaii

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