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VIDEO: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Introduces Bill to Halt Deportation of Kailua-Kona Farmer, Andres Magana Ortiz

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) spoke on the House floor today urging Congress to pass a ‘private bill’ she introduced this week For the Relief of Andres Magana Ortiz (H.R.2794).

A similar bill was introduced by U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka to assist Chef Chai Chaowasaree in 2001. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, this legislation would adjust  Mr. Andres Magana Ortiz’s legal status and make him eligible for legal, permanent residence in the United States where he lives in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Mr. Ortiz is under threat of deportation under a Final Order of Removal issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The introduction of this bill follows a letter sent this week by Hawaii’s congressional delegation to DHS Secretary Kelly requesting that the Department reverse its decision to deport Mr. Ortiz.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said:

“The purpose of this bill is to help Mr. Ortiz with his extremely challenging situation, put him on a path to citizenship, and prevent his family from being torn apart. Without this legislation, Andres Ortiz faces deportation within days, after living in Hawaii for 28 years and working hard as a small business owner. His wife and children – U.S. citizens – have exhausted all of the options available to them before their father and husband is forced to leave the place he calls home in Hawaii. We need a pathway to citizenship for immigrants to ensure people who deserve to be here, can find a way to be a part of our great country.  We need immigration reform that keeps families together.”

Background: Immigration reform has been one of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s top priorities throughout her time in Congress.  She also co-sponsored two measures to protect families and children, including the DREAMer Information Protection Act (H.R. 532) which prohibits DHS’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) from being used for immigration enforcement proceedings and the BRIDGE Act (H.R.496) which codifies the DACA program.

Senator Mazie Hirono on Immigration Reform

Senator Mazie K. Hirono hosted a roundtable discussion with community leaders about how comprehensive immigration reform could impact Hawaii. Among the 20 attendees included immigration law specialists, children’s advocates, philanthropic organizations and immigration justice activists. The meeting was the first of a series of events this week where Hirono will discuss how her work in the Senate impacts Hawaii residents.

Click to sign letter

Click to sign letter

“After listening to these local immigration experts, I was struck by their stories of how central families are to an immigrant’s success,” Hirono remarked after the event. “These professionals and activists serve on the front lines of the issue in Hawaii, helping immigrants wade through the bureaucratic red tape and see firsthand the challenges our immigration system poses for families.”

At the meeting, Hirono listened as participants spoke of their own daily experiences dealing with the immigration system and discussed ways immigration reform could make their jobs easier.

“What I thought was so great about the meeting is how many different voices from the community were here — the people from Micronesia, people with medical issues related to immigration, the immigration services community,” participant John Robert Egan, a Honolulu immigration attorney, remarked after the event. “It’s so great to get so many voices around the table and have a free interchange with the Senator.”

Mazie Poster on Immigration

Participants also spoke up on how important Hirono’s fight for the family immigration system is as the Senate takes up immigration legislation in the coming weeks.

“Senator Hirono showed understanding of the community’s needs and where we are in terms of advocating for the issues. Hopefully, she will be able to get support from the other senators because this really means so much, not only for Hawaii, but for the rest of the country,” remarked participant Melba Bantay, Program Director for Immigration Services at Catholic Charities Hawaii.

After spending three months in the United States Senate and joining key discussions on national security, economic issues, immigration reform and other matters important to Hawaii, Senator Hirono is meeting with Hawaii residents this week to discuss how her work in the Senate impacts them.