HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Advocates for immigrants are ramping up efforts to make Hawaii a sanctuary state.
Petitions are circulating urging Gov. David Ige and Mayor Kirk Caldwell to join more than 300 jurisdictions across the country who have offered a meaningful sanctuary for their undocumented residents.
"A sanctuary state or city would not enforce federal immigration law which is under no legal obligation to do so," said Nandita Sharma, co-chair of Hawaii J20+ Immigration Action Committee.
On Saturday, dozens attended a public forum on immigration justice at Church of the Crossroads in Manoa.
Panelists included state Sen. Stanley Chang and Attorney General Douglas Chin, who was the first to file a lawsuit last week against President Donald Trump's revised travel ban.
The executive order goes into effect March 16 and bars new visas for people from six predominantly Muslim countries, while temporarily shutting down the U.S. refugee program.
The president has also vowed to deport those in the country illegally, something immigration advocates fear could affect thousands in Hawaii.
The Migration Policy Institute estimates that there are 21,000 immigrants in Hawaii illegally. Nearly two-thirds of them are listed as being from the Philippines or Japan.
"Historically, law enforcement has always had a respect here in America for the sanctity of religious properties," said immigration attorney John Egan. "So churches, synagogues and mosques police don't go into the private areas of those facilities."
"We have always been very welcoming and we'll continue to be welcoming into the future through the administration and everything," added Cheryl Bellisario of the Aloha DREAM Team.
Opponents believe sanctuaries may provide a safe haven for criminals.
"We're talking about illegals," said Sam Slom, a former Republican state senator. "They take benefits that are for Hawaii residents, they increase the cost for healthcare and education and everything else. This is a matter for the courts. The courts will settle it and I'm confident that the court will uphold the power of the presidency."
The mayor said he opposes President Trump's revised travel ban, but he and the governor haven't publicly voiced their opinions on the sanctuary movement.