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As Member of Senate Judiciary Committee, Hirono Has Key Perch To Offer Changes That Would Boost Hawaii’s Economy, Help Filipino Vets

Washington, D.C. - Senator Mazie K. Hirono today filed her first four amendments to the immigration reform bill currently being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The four measures, long sought by Hawaii leaders, would reunite Filipino World War II veterans with their families, make it easier for foreign tourists to visit the islands, and help the Hawaii fishing industry.

As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Hirono is in a key position to advocate for Hawaii in immigration reform. As the committee marks up and considers amendments to the immigration reform bill this month, Hirono expects to offer each of these amendments for a vote.If approved by the committee, the measures will be included in the immigration bill that is sent to the Senate floor.

“These measures have long been priorities for Hawaii, and I am working very closely with my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee to win their support for these amendments,” said Hirono. “These changes would pump millions into Hawaii’s economy by boosting foreign tourism, make good on our promises to those who served our nation, and fix a longstanding competitive disparity between mainland and Hawaii fishermen.”

Below read summaries of Hirono’s first four amendments. The amendments are posted on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s website.

Reunifying Filipino WWII Vets With Their Children (Hirono1) – Although thousands of Filipino veterans were granted citizenship in recognition of their service to the United States in World War II, their children were not granted citizenship. Senator Hirono’s amendment would help eliminate the immigration backlog for the families of Filipino World War II vets seeking citizenship. The amendment is identical to Hirono’s previously introduced bill, the bipartisan Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act of 2013.

Allowing Hawaii Fishing Vessels To Temporarily Rotate Foreign Crews (Hirono2) – Because of Hawaii’s geographic isolation, Hawaii’s longline fishing fleet faces a unique competitive disadvantage. Federal law requires U.S. fleets to rotate their nonimmigrant foreign crews at foreign ports. While mainland fleets can comply with this crew rotation requirement by rotating foreign crews at ports in Canada or Mexico, Hawaii-based vessels must make a round-trip voyage of more than two weeks to reach the nearest foreign port. Senator Hirono’s amendment would allow U.S. vessels to temporarily rotate their nonimmigrant foreign crew in Hawaii through C1/D crew visas, the same flexibility currently available to U.S. ships rotating crew in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Expanding Chinese Tourism By Making It Easier For Chinese Visitors To Visit The Islands (Hirono3) – While Chinese tourists to the United States represent a large and lucrative market, restrictive visa laws prevent them from traveling to the U.S. and spending money in our economy. Visitors from Mainland China currently can only hold tourist visas to the U.S. for one year. Senator Hirono’s bipartisan amendment, cosponsored by Senator Lee, would allow residents of Mainland China to hold U.S. visitor visas for five years and would permit multiple entries to and from the U.S. during this period. This amendment is identical to a key provision of Hirono’s VISIT USA Act, a bill she previously introduced in the U.S. House to boost Chinese tourism to the United States.

Making Hong Kong Eligible For The Visa Waiver Program (Hirono4) – Senator Hirono’s bipartisan amendment, cosponsored by Senators Hatch and Lee, would designate Hong Kong as eligible to be considered for participation in the visa waiver program (VWP) for visitors to the United States. The VWP allows citizens of participating foreign countries or states to travel to the U.S. without a visa for stays of 90 days or less, provided they meet appropriate requirements. Currently, 37 countries are VWP participants. Hong Kong must still meet all statutory requirements that every country must meet for inclusion in the VWP. The amendment is identical to a bill previously introduced by Hirono in April 2013.