Star-Advertiser Column: Hawaiʻi's invaluable immigrants need state aid, funding now

Catherine Chen, Hao Nguyen and Bettina Mok write in the Star-Advertiser: "Hawaiʻi legislators, we hope you choose to stand with your people when they need you the most and allocate the resources our immigrant families need right now."

Direct assistance to immigrant families purposefully forsaken by federal leadership is not a radical proposal. Other states have done this. California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington state and Washington, D.C., all created funds for immigrant residents.

And yes, there is money. Last month, the Hawaii Legislature placed $635 million of federal CARES Act funding into the state’s “rainy day” fund. But that rainy day is today. Lawmakers should move some of those funds to state agencies and nonprofits to administer direct assistance and ensure appropriate language and other access.

Not only does Hawaii have the funds, but they are designed for addressing a problem as dire as this one. We are only as strong, as safe, and as healthy as the most vulnerable person we pass on the sidewalk.

Catherine Chen is an attorney/fellow with Medical-Legal Partnership for Children in Hawaii; Hao Nguyen is interim executive director of Pacific Gateway Center; Bettina Mok is executive director of The Legal Clinic.

Read the full op-ed here.

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