Defending immigrants, health care, Asia-Pacific region

By:  Senator Mazie K. Hirono
Over the past eight months, we’ve all been forced to adjust to a painful new reality in Washington.

We have a president who has thus far not provided the consistent, thoughtful or moral leadership this country needs.

In the absence of presidential leadership, Congress must step up to address the challenges we face and move our country forward.

For the near term, I will continue focusing on protecting Hawaii from further harm from this administration, and working across party lines to advance important priorities for Hawaii and the country.

Immigrants and minorities have been under near continuous attack from this administration, and I will continue to fight to protect them from discriminatory treatment.

This has become an even more urgent priority following the administration’s decision to cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Under DACA, nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants, including roughly 600 in Hawaii, received temporary legal status that allowed them to go to school, get a job, or join the military.

Instead of planning for their very bright futures, these inspiring young people, aptly called DREAMers, are now living in fear of imminent deportation.

This is cruel and completely unjustifiable.

In Hawaii, we understand the economic and social value immigrants bring to our communities. And standing up for them is a moral imperative.

Last month, I met with local activists and state officials to rally support for DACA and to call for establishing permanent protections for DREAMers across the country.

I am hopeful that we can finally pass the DREAM Act on a bipartisan basis and give these young people the certainty they from deportation they deserve.

In July, we successfully defeated “Trumpcare” and prevented millions of people from losing their health insurance. The president, however, remains eager and determined to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Throughout the debate over Trumpcare, I argued that if the president and congressional Republicans took repeal off the table, we could work together to strengthen the ACA.

Last month, I visited with state health care leaders, hospitals, community health centers and other stakeholders in Hawaii to get their input on how the ACA was working and what we could do to strengthen it. We discussed a lot of specific ideas — including making cost-sharing reduction payments permanent, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and using reinsurance to help reduce premiums and out-of-pocket costs for consumers in our state.

These discussions and ideas will be invaluable during the bipartisan health care negotiations currently underway in the Senate. And I will continue to be a strong advocate for health care that is right and not a privilege only for those who can afford it.

Although we have deep disagreements about how to approach important national security issues, members of both parties share a commitment to keeping Hawaii and our country safe.

Our ongoing work to pass an important bipartisan national defense authorization bill, which the Senate will take up in the weeks ahead, reflects this commitment.

Over the past few months, I’ve worked with members of both parties on the Armed Services Committee to ensure this bill addresses important priorities for Hawaii and the nation as a whole.

I worked with Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan to enhance our missile defense capabilities to protect us from the North Korea threat.

I also secured authorization for more than $300 million to fund Hawaii military construction projects, and fought back against cuts to Pacific Command personnel to protect our strategic interests in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

With this administration, we will confront fresh assaults on the body politic on a continuous basis. Our delegation will continue to work with our colleagues in Congress to stand up to the President’s reckless actions and provide the leadership Hawaii and our country deserve.