THE SENATE

S.B. NO.

812

THIRTY-SECOND LEGISLATURE, 2023

S.D. 1

STATE OF HAWAII

 

 

 

 

 

 

A BILL FOR AN ACT

 

 

RELATING TO IMMIGRANT SERVICES.

 

 

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:

 


SECTION 1. The legislature finds that Hawaii has a long history of welcoming immigrants. Immigrants and their children have made, and continue to make, significant contributions to the State, including the State's economy, workforce, and community.

The legislature further finds that immigrants comprise two hundred and seventy thousand members, or eighteen per cent, of Hawaii's population, including one hundred forty-five thousand persons who are naturalized citizens. Immigrants come to Hawaii from many countries and almost half of all immigrants in the State come from the Philippines. Immigrants make up forty per cent of agricultural workers, thirty-three per cent of tourism and hospitality workers, and twenty-three per cent of health care workers in the State. Despite these numbers, new immigrants face significant barriers to success, including discrimination, cultural misunderstandings, and language barriers. These barriers may prevent them from accessing government services and participating fully in their communities.

The legislature notes that in 1985, the office of community services was established as an attached agency to the department of labor and industrial relations. The legislative mandate of the office of community services is to serve low-income individuals, immigrants, and refugees. In establishing the office, the legislature consolidated four anti-poverty agencies that administered state and federal funds, including the office of the progressive neighborhoods program, Hawaii office of economic opportunity, refugee resettlement program, and state immigrant services center. Before its consolidation and establishment as an agency attached to the department of labor and industrial relations, the state immigrant services center was attached to the governor's office and received significant funding and staffing.

The legislature believes that the director and staff of the office of community services have demonstrated the office's ability to serve low-income individuals and families by successfully administering millions of dollars in federal funds and state grants-in-aid. However, while immigrants and refugees can also benefit from these services, the programs offered do not address the needs of immigrants and refugees who have limited English proficiency or are unfamiliar with government regulations and benefits. The legislature considered this issue in House Concurrent Resolution No. 169, Regular Session of 2021, and convened a working group to "improve access to government services for immigrants and increase immigrant opportunities to make civic and economic contributions to the community". As part of the working group, community groups identified the office of community services as the best state agency to serve immigrants and suggested that the office be given dedicated staff to address immigrant and refugee matters. In response, Act 256, Session Laws of Hawaii 2022, provided $1,000,000 to reinstate immigrant resource centers and to support nonprofit immigrant service agencies.

The legislature recognizes that other states provide immigrant and refugee services through a statewide, state-funded office for immigrant affairs. This type of office exists in Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, and New York, and has recently been proposed in California. Many cities across the nation, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, have also established comprehensive, government-funded offices for immigrant and refugee affairs. In Hawaii, the counties of Maui and Hawaii have offices for immigrant affairs, but there are none in the county of Kauai or the city and county of Honolulu.

The legislature believes that it is the State's responsibility to provide needed support programs for Hawaii's immigrants, refugees, and others, and to ensure they have equal access to government programs. Dedicated staff and additional resources are needed to allow the office of community services to meet its full legislative mandate.

Accordingly, the purpose of this Act is to establish and appropriate moneys for an immigrant services and access unit within the office of community services.

SECTION 2. Chapter 371K, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding a new section to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:

"371K-   Immigrant services and access unit. (a) There is established within the office of community services an immigrant services and access unit. The purpose of the immigrant services and access unit shall be to promote economic self‑sufficiency, inclusion, and community integration for immigrants by improving access to appropriate services, resources, and benefits. The immigrant services and access unit may:

(1) Offer services, including but not limited to:

(A) English language training;

(B) Translation and interpretation;

(C) Workforce development training;

(D) Legal services;

(E) Assistance in obtaining citizenship and naturalization; and

(F) Programs to assist in learning about and accessing government services;

(2) Coordinate with nonprofit organizations, supported by grants and contracts, for the direct provision of immigrant services;

(3) Coordinate with other immigrant-serving state agencies and county immigrant services offices;

(4) Explore all available federal resources, including federal grants;

(5) Establish an advisory committee with representatives from immigrant communities, immigrant-serving organizations, and appropriate state and county agencies; and

(6) Oversee and monitor the immigrant resource center program.

(b) Services offered by the immigrant services and access unit may be available to:

(1) Immigrants;

(2) Refugees;

(3) Compact of Free Association with the United States residents;

(4) Undocumented persons; and

(5) Other persons, regardless of the person's immigration status."

SECTION 3. There is appropriated out of the general revenues of the State of Hawaii the sum of $           or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 2023-2024 and $           or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 2024-2025 for an immigrant services and access unit within the office of community services, including funding for:

(1)       full-time equivalent (      FTE) positions in fiscal year 2023-2024, comprising      coordinator and      clerical position;

(2)       full-time equivalent (      FTE) positions in fiscal year 2024-2025, comprising       coordinator,       clerical position, and       specialists; and

(3) Operations and the provision of services.

The sums appropriated shall be expended by the department of labor and industrial relations for the purposes of this Act.

SECTION 4. New statutory material is underscored.

SECTION 5. This Act shall take effect on January 1, 2050.


 


 

Report Title:

Office of Community Services; Immigrant Services; Positions; Appropriation

 

Description:

Establishes and appropriates moneys for an immigrant services and access unit within the Office of Community Services. Effective 1/1/2050. (SD1)

 

 

 

The summary description of legislation appearing on this page is for informational purposes only and is not legislation or evidence of legislative intent.