This Is Personal to Me

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, holds a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee about immigrant women and immigration reform o
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, holds a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee about immigrant women and immigration reform on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday March 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Earlier this week, I chaired a Senate hearing on an issue that's gotten a lot of attention recently, but has been a defining and personal subject for me my whole life: immigration -- specifically, its effect on families.

When I was almost eight years old, my mother courageously brought my brother and me from Japan to Hawaii to flee my father, a compulsive gambler and alcoholic. Every immigrant has his or her own reason for coming to the United States -- but all of us, like my mother, my brother, and me, come here hoping for a better life.

And I want to make sure that other families have that same opportunity.

That's why I was proud to chair the hearing, and why I sent a letter to the "Immigration Gang of Eight" -- the bipartisan group of senators negotiating comprehensive immigration reform legislation -- urging them to focus on the human element of immigration as they craft their bill.

While immigration reform is clearly an economic issue, it is first and foremost about people. People like me. I want to make sure other families like mine have the same opportunity to come to America, work hard, play by the rules, and find a better life.

So in my letter, I urged my colleagues to include these vital principles in their immigration proposal:

  • It's cruel to force families to wait decades to be reunited with their loved ones. Family reunification must be made a core priority in our immigration policy, and must not exclude LGBT families.

  • We should not force visiting students to leave the country after they've earned advanced degrees in science or technology. They can be productive contributors to our economy.
  • We must include a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented people currently in the country. Like my mother, these people came to our country with a willingness to work hard and give their children better lives.
  • Provide families access to the social safety net during their provisional status -- including health care and anti-poverty programs, especially valuable to immigrant women and children -- so they can be healthy and productive members of our society and economy.
  • I am so proud to be a naturalized citizen of the United States, proud of the friends I've made, and proud of the ways I've been able to serve this country that gave my family a safe home when we needed it most. I'm committed to working my hardest to ensure we pass truly comprehensive immigration reform, especially through my work on the Senate Judiciary Committee and its Subcommittee on Immigration.

    But I need your help to show my colleagues the groundswell of public support for these commonsense principles.

    Click here to add your name to my letter to my Senate colleagues, urging them to include these vital human principles in their reform proposal.

    We're now closer than we've ever been to fixing our broken immigration system. With your help, we'll get it done -- and make sure that immigrant families are respected in the process.