Hawai’i Senators Mazie K. Hirono and Brian Schatz released the following statements celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Hirono said, “This is a historic day for civil rights and marriage equality. I am heartened by the Supreme Court’s decision affirming equal protection for married gay couples under the 5th Amendment.
“The marriage equality movement has come a long way, both in Hawaii and across the country. In 1998, I was part of a small group of Hawaii leaders who spoke out against an amendment to the Hawaii constitution that enabled legislation banning same-sex marriage.
“There are still many instances in our society where discrimination occurs – from our immigration system to workplaces across the country to states that still ban gay marriage. I will continue to join efforts to end these injustices and fight for equal treatment of all people under the law.”
Senator Brian Schatz praised the Supreme Court decision on DOMA, stating, “The Supreme Court deeming the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional is a victory for all Americans. Today’s decision means that LGBT individuals across the country are given the same rights under federal law as every married couple, and equal treatment under the law. Because of this decision, the federal government can no longer tell men and women who they can or cannot marry, and same-sex married couples can now enjoy the same federal benefits as the rest of us.
I have always believed in marriage equality, and will continue to do everything in my power to help our LGBT friends and loved ones achieve equality.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Mazie K. Hirono released the following statement commemorating the 41st anniversary this week of the Patsy Takemoto Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, commonly known as Title IX. This federal law protects students from gender discrimination in federally supported education programs and activities. The landmark legislation was signed into law on June 23, 1972.
“Title IX was signed into law more than four decades ago to open the doors of opportunity for new generations of women and girls. Because it mandates equitable funding for women’s sports programs, Title IX is most frequently associated with the development and expansion of women’s athletics in our schools and universities. As a result, the number of female high school students participating in sports has increased tenfold, and still continues to grow. After 1972, equal access to athletic opportunities at any federally funded educational institution became every girl or woman’s right by law.
“Forty one years later, Title IX remains important for reasons far beyond athletics. It is a commitment to the principle of gender equity. Studies show that the increased availability of women’s athletics at schools and universities has led to increased college attendance and participation in the workforce. More women are attaining college degrees and earning higher wages, and doing work in traditionally male-dominated fields such as science and politics. There are now 20 women serving as U.S. Senators, the highest percentage of female representation we have ever had.
“However, women are still underrepresented in critical fields such as science and technology and do not receive equal pay for equal work. We must continue to protect and strengthen the vision for gender equity that inspired Hawaii’s own Patsy Mink to co-author Title IX. Patsy felt the sting of gender discrimination in her own life when she was denied access to medical school, which helped spark her interest in politics. I am proud to have known Patsy Mink and to have called her my friend, and I will fight to see her legacy protected and expanded for new generations of women and girls.”
Both of Hawaii’s U.S. senators today had strong words in reaction to the vote by the Supreme Court to eliminate Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act.
Senator Mazie K. Hirono, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released the following statement condemning the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, a key provision enabling the Department of Justice to protect minority voters:
“The Voting Rights Act has been critical to ensuring every American has access to one of our country’s most fundamental freedoms — the right to vote. I am very disappointed that the Supreme Court assumed that voter registration and participation is no longer as much of a concern for minority voters. I couldn’t disagree more. Congress must act quickly to restore the key provisions the Supreme Court struck down and protect every Americans’ right to vote.”
Senator Brian Schatz released the following statement on the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act:
“Today, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, a key element of the law that provides the formula for determining which state is covered by the law’s pre-clearance requirement. Pre-clearance of voting law changes is an essential tool for fighting discrimination across the country. It is a major setback for voting rights that the Court deemed Section 4 of the law unconstitutional.
“Congress must act quickly to make sure that the Voting Rights Act continues to stop discriminatory changes in voting laws before they are put in place. While some might think that discrimination is an act of the past, we have seen several examples for why we still need laws in place to vigorously protect the right to vote. This is why I have joined Senator Gillibrand in pushing for the Voter Empowerment Act in order to give the federal government additional tools to ensure every voter can cast their vote and have that vote counted. We should find ways to make it easier to vote instead of restricting one of our most fundamental rights.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Mazie K. Hirono today took to the Senate floor to highlight two major flaws in the immigration reform bill currently being debated in the Senate. In her remarks, Hirono pointed out how the new merit-based immigration system that gives preference to potential immigrants with high level education and technical expertise would heavily disadvantage women, since women across the globe do not have the same educational and career opportunities as men.
“Women in too many other countries do not have the same educational or career advancement opportunities available to men in those countries,” Hirono said. “In practice, the bill’s new point system takes that discriminatory treatment abroad and cements it into our immigration laws, making it harder for women to come to our country than for men.”
She also criticized how the bill requires immigrant taxpayers to pay the same taxes as everyone else but blocks these taxpayers from utilizing safety net programs for at least 13 years.
“Imagine that you buy homeowner’s insurance, but the policy won’t cover your house if it catches fire until 13 years after you start paying premiums. That is obviously not fair. But that is exactly the situation in which we are putting immigrants who are on the pathway to citizenship,” Hirono said.
Senator Hirono called on her colleagues to fix these parts of the bill and said she is working with her colleagues on amendments that would do just that.
Hirono’s full remarks as prepared read below:
“I believe hope and fairness lie at the core of what makes our country great. Fifty years ago, President Kennedy called on the country to embrace civil rights legislation that would end the unfair treatment of millions of people as second-class citizens. Congress responded, and the country is better for it. This week, we in the senate are debating comprehensive immigration reform legislation that gives hope to the millions of undocumented people who live in this country that they will be able to emerge from the shadows and live full lives. It is our time to act. We should pass this important legislation.
I thank the Gang of Eight, and their staff, for their hard work negotiating the bill and getting it through committee and onto the floor. They have set an example of bipartisanship on a tough issue that is all too rare these days.
I also thank Senator Leahy, and his staff, for his able leadership during the markup. It was a remarkably open and fair process, full of principled debate. That’s how the senate should work.
Their hard work, and that of others, has produced the bill that is before us.
Many senators have already spoken about what is in the bill: the billions of dollars for border security, the tough employment eligibility verification requirements, the pro-tourism policies, and the path to citizenship.
Rather than cover that ground again, I want to talk about two problems with the bill that I hope can be fixed: first, the system designed for future immigration is unfair to women; and second, the pathway to citizenship is unfair to immigrant taxpayers.
The new merit-based point system for allocating visas to future immigrants is the first problem. Simply put, the point system inadvertently makes it harder for women than for men to come to this country.
The new point system is based on an attractive economic idea, but unfortunately one that clearly disadvantages women. The idea is if we want a stronger economy, then we should give immigration preferences to people who hold advanced degrees or work in high-skill jobs.
This idea ignores the discrimination women endure in other countries. Women in too many other countries do not have the same educational or career advancement opportunities available to men in those countries.
In practice, the bill’s new point system takes that discriminatory treatment abroad and cements it into our immigration laws, making it harder for women to come to our country than for men.
While unintentional in this case, the idea that we want to attract the most educated and skilled people, but they just happen to be mostly men, is the same argument used for generations to protect gender discrimination policies in the workplace. We all want a stronger economy, but we should not sacrifice the hard-won victories of the women’s equality movement to get it.
By contrast, the current family immigration system treats men and women equally. The current system is based on keeping families together. That system reflects our shared values about the social importance of family. My family and millions of others also know the family system makes good economic sense.
Anyone, whether an immigrant or a natural born citizen, has a better chance of being successful if they are surrounded by a strong family that can pool its resources to help start a business or help one another during rough times. In many families, aunts and uncles, parents and grandparents, and even brothers and sisters, use part of their paychecks each week to help a young man or young woman in their family pay for college and take one step closer to the American dream.
That is how it worked in my family. My mother brought my brothers and me to this country to escape an abusive marriage at the hands of my father. My mother raised me and my brothers as a single parent, and times were tough for us. But with the help of my grandparents who later joined us, I was able to learn English and succeed in school.
The amazing thing about this country is millions of families have stories like mine.
If I had not been able to come to this country, who knows where I’d be today. But I can tell you that I would not have had anything close to the opportunities this great country has given to me. I want other women to have those chances, too.
The biggest losers in the bill’s new point system will be unmarried sisters of U.S. citizens. Why? Because the new system not only makes it harder for women to immigrate here, but it eliminates visas for siblings of citizens, while allowing new immigrants to bring their spouses. A woman who aspires to live with her family and work in the greatest country in the world should not have to get married to do that.
The future immigration system in the bill needs to be modified to give unmarried women more opportunities to come here. There is more than one way to fix this problem. One solution could be to restore the sibling category. I will file an amendment to do that. Another solution could be to modify the point system that is in the bill. I am working with other senators on an amendment to do that, which I hope will be ready soon.
The second problem in this bill that needs to be fixed is how it treats immigrant taxpayers.
Make no mistake: immigrants pay taxes. A study released in May by researchers at Harvard and the City University of New York found that immigrants contributed $115.2 billion more to Medicare than they took out between 2002 and 2009. Even undocumented immigrants pay taxes. A 2006 survey by U.C. San Diego showed that 75% of undocumented immigrants had taxes withheld from the paychecks, filed tax returns, or both. The Social Security Administration estimates that undocumented immigrants have contributed between $120 billion and $240 billion to the Social Security trust fund.
I have a fact sheet with citations of several studies about immigrant taxpayers, and I ask unanimous consent that this fact sheet be printed in the record following my remarks.
The bill makes clear that immigrants on the pathway to citizenship have to continue working, paying taxes and other penalties, and meeting other requirements. In fact, they have to do all of that before they can even start on the pathway to citizenship.
The Social Security Administration estimates the tax requirements in the bill will raise more than $300 billion in payroll taxes alone.
The general fund will also receive more in tax revenue. Although we have not yet seen CBO’s official score, in all likelihood the Treasury Department will collect billions more in revenue for the general fund from these immigrants.
In his written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 22, 2013, Grover Norquist pointed out that once immigrants have lawful status and work authorization, they will be able to get better jobs and contribute even more to the funding of federal programs. He wrote that after the 1986 immigration law was enacted, “their incomes rose by an average 15 percent just by gaining legal status. Those immigrants today are making much more than they did then and, as a result, paying more in taxes.”
My point is immigrant taxpayers contribute to the funding of not only Medicare and Social Security, but of all federal programs. No one disputes it should be this way. Immigrants on the pathway must pay taxes just like everyone else. The strict tax requirements in the bill are the right policy.
What is wrong are the policies in the bill that prohibit immigrant taxpayers who are on the pathway from being able to use federal safety net programs for at least 13 years. Their taxes pay for these programs but they can’t use these programs. That is profoundly unfair.
Imagine if you buy homeowner’s insurance, but the policy won’t cover your house if it catches fire until 13 years after you start paying premiums. That is obviously not fair. But that is exactly the situation in which we are putting immigrants who are on the pathway to citizenship.
Yesterday, the senior senator from Utah spoke on the floor about several amendments he filed to further restrict immigrant taxpayers’ access to the programs their tax dollars pay for. He said, “I don’t want to punish these immigrants. I simply want to make sure that they are treated no better or no worse than U.S. citizens and resident aliens with respect to federal benefits and taxes.”
I have great respect for the senior senator from Utah. I agree with him that these immigrants should be treated no worse than U.S. citizens and resident aliens. But they are being treated worse because of the restrictions in the bill.
Under current law, immigrant taxpayers who are resident aliens can’t use the federal safety net programs they pay into for five years. Their taxes are paid into the system for five years, and but they get no help during that time if their kids get sick or if they lose their job. That is already unfair. But the bill treats immigrants in provisional status even worse. They have to pay taxes for 13 years before they can use the programs they are paying for.
The 13-year long pathway to citizenship will be hard enough. Lose your job and you risk losing your legal status and being deported. Work hard to save up money not just for your kids school supplies, but to pay the penalties in the bill. The restrictions on federal safety net programs make the pathway even more treacherous.
We are saying to these immigrants, pay your taxes but if your kids get sick don’t come to us for help. We are saying pay your taxes but if you have to work part time because of a recession, don’t come to us if you need some help putting food on the table. We are saying pay your taxes, but we’re not going to help you. That is just not fair.
I want to be clear: I am talking only about immigrants who will be lawfully present. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for these programs at all, and no one is proposing to change that.
But the pathway provides a way for certain people to earn lawful status. Let’s treat lawfully present taxpayers fairly. Let’s do as the senator from Utah suggests and at the very least make sure they are treated no worse than U.S. citizens and resident aliens.
Finally, not only are the prohibitions in the bill unfair to immigrant taxpayers, they are also bad economics.
Both Republican and Democratic senators say they want immigrants to be successful, start businesses and continue contributing to the economy. We all do.
But few people would use their life savings to start a business if they think their children will go hungry or go without healthcare if the business fails. The safety net programs exist so people can take risks to improve their economic circumstances.
Immigrants come to this country to work. They don’t come to get handouts. They come here to work. Two papers from the Cato institute show that immigrants are more likely to be working or looking for work than natural born citizens. And immigrants are less likely to use federal safety net programs. The title of one Cato article sums it up nicely: “Evidence Shows Immigrants Come to Work, Not to Collect Welfare.” I ask unanimous consent that these two papers be printed in the record following my remarks.
Both political parties should be able to support the idea that taxpayers who are lawfully present, working, and paying taxes should be able to use the programs their tax dollars pay for. That is only fair. I will file an amendment that says precisely that.
In closing, during the debate on immigration reform, I hope we remember who undocumented immigrants are. Like other immigrants, they had the courage and aspiration to leave their hometowns to look for work elsewhere, in order to give their kids better lives than they could dream for themselves.
The undocumented should pay penalties for the laws they broke by coming here, but we should remember that the founding fathers were willing to break up an empire to achieve their dreams.
We are a nation of immigrants. Let’s treat immigrants how we would have wanted our immigrant ancestors to be treated: with dignity and fairness.
I yield the floor.”
MAKAWAO, MAUI – Senator Mazie K. Hirono joined veterans and their families today at the Memorial Day Service at Maui Veterans Cemetery. In her remarks, she recognized the brave men and women who have served and sacrificed for our freedom. Her remarks read below:
“This morning, we gather to pay our respects and remember the men and women who sacrificed their lives in defense of our nation.
“I am pleased to spend this Memorial Day with you on Maui, among friends and family. Maui: home of many of our service men and women who departed to other wars, those that are still deployed, and those Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen in American uniforms across the globe.
“For those Americans, who volunteer and recognize the call to duty, they do not hesitate when our nation is in peril. Throughout our nation’s history, men (and today women) joined the ranks in the defense of liberty and freedom. The attacks on our country on December 7th, 1941 as well as the attacks on September 11th, 2001 moved many sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters into harm’s way. We have been and continue to be a nation forward-deployed in defense of America’s ideals, values, and freedom.
“Today we gather to recognize the sacrifice of not just our military members, but the support of the military families, who do without a loved one while the service member is deployed in harm’s way. We also share the grief and sense of loss in the families that mourn for those that have died in service. We gather here on Maui as millions throughout the world remember.
“Maui answered the call to service in all our wars and the many are represented by a few that we remember this morning.
“Maui is the home of members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 100th Battalion and the Military Intelligence Service. Kaoru Moto of Makawao joined the war in Europe and later received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Maui is the home of Anthony Kahoohanohano who served in the Korean War. Who died fighting valiantly in desperate combat, and received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
“Maui is the home of Albert Cabanayan, a United States Marine, who perished in Vietnam.
“Maui is the home of Kraig Vickers, who died serving with the Navy SEALS in Afghanistan.
“These brave individuals gave their lives in service and represent the millions who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
“All across our state and across America, the flags of our cemeteries fly at half-staff to commemorate those who died while in service. At noon, the flags will be raised to full staff to recognize that their sacrifices wave high in our hearts, and their memories at their fullest.
Let us remember the men and women who have fallen in duty to their nation…our nation. There is a saying that a person suffers two deaths: The first is when the body dies; the second death occurs when we forget. Let us never forget those that served honorably. Let us commemorate their sacrifice and celebrate them, no matter their resting places whether in the cemeteries of our nation or within the foreign soil where they fell throughout the world.
“I wish you the finest of days in the freedom fought and paid for by these patriots.
May you be blessed and have peace in this wonderful nation, the United States of America.
Senator Hirono’s remarks were part of the solemn pageantry that returns to Makawao Veterans Cemetery every year on Memorial Day. The days is marked with the planting of new American flags on every grave, a helicopter drop of thousands of red, white and blue carnation blossoms, flower and lei presentations to the fallen, the playing of Taps and a 21-gun salute.
Maui residents and visitors, along with other Americans planned to gather at cemeteries, memorials and monuments nationwide to honor fallen military service members on Memorial Day, at a time when combat in Afghanistan approaches 12 years and the ranks of World War II veterans dwindles.
Across Maui, the state and the nation, state and U.S. flags will fly at half-staff until noon – then be raised to full-staff to show support for those still serving in harm’s way around the world.
On Maui the annual honoring of war fallen begins at 9:30 a.m. at Veterans Cemetery on Baldwin Avenue in Makawao today. The event draws military, community and political leaders and a huge throng of veterans dating back to World War II service. Speeches include the day’s keynote speaker, U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono. Music is always stirring at the Maui event, played by area high school orchestras. A 21-gun salute to the fallen is followed by the playing of Taps and a helicopter drop of thousands of red, white and blue carnations. Potluck lunch follows with typically amazing, locally-prepared food.
Veterans and volunteers have been preparing lei and flag presentations since Friday. Members of the vaunted 442 RCT from World War II will gather – for the first time – without fellow 442 member, the late U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye.
President Barack Obama was expected to lay a wreath today at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery across the Potomac River from Washington. Earlier in the morning, he and first lady Michelle Obama planned to host a breakfast at the White House with “Gold Star” families of service members who have been killed.
In one of several ceremonies honoring Americans killed in Afghanistan, the city of South Sioux City, Neb., planned to unveil a statue honoring Navy Petty Officer 1st Class John Douangdara, a dog handler for the SEALs killed in a 2011 helicopter crash. His service dog was also killed in the crash and is memorialized beside him in the statue.
At the American Airpower Museum on Long Island, N.Y., a program was planned to honor Women Air Service Pilots, or WASPs, who tested and ferried completed aircraft from factories to bases during World War II. Thirty-eight died during the war, including Alice Lovejoy of Scarsdale, N.Y., who was killed on Sept. 13, 1944, in a midair collision over Texas.
“It’s very important that we recognize not only their contribution to American history, but women’s history,” said Julia Lauria-Blum, curator of the WASP exhibit at the museum. “These women really blazed a path; they were pioneers for women’s aviation. And most important, they gave their lives serving their country and must be honored like anyone else on Memorial Day.”
Another wreath-laying ceremony was planned at Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island in New York City. The park is a tribute to President Roosevelt’s famous speech calling for all people to enjoy freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
In Atlanta, a dedication of the History Center’s redone Veterans Park was scheduled for early evening. Soil from major battlefields will be scattered by veterans around the park’s flagpole.
In suburban Boston, veterans gathered in a park to mark Memorial Day this year rather than hold a parade because of failing health and dwindling numbers. The city of Beverly called off its parade because so few veterans would be able to march. The parade has been a fixture in the town since the Civil War.
The holiday weekend also marked the traditional start of the U.S. vacation season. AAA, one of the nation’s largest leisure travel agencies, expected 31.2 million Americans to hit the road over the weekend, virtually the same number as last year. Gas prices were about the same as last year, up 1 cent to a national average of $3.65 a gallon Friday.
On Maui, gas prices have inched back to $4.59 per gallon – the highest in the nation…again.
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