Honolulu welcomes new citizens, but holds off on becoming a 'sanctuary city'

Updated: May. 17, 2017 at 7:20 PM HST
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(image: Hawaii News Now)
(image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new report released Wednesday shows a huge increase in arrests of undocumented immigrants since President Trump took office in January, but some cities are refusing to help with the federal crackdown.

Honolulu is not one of these so-called 'sanctuary cities,' but it is close.

"We're doing everything that is requested by a sanctuary city status without actually declaring that we're one. And I think it's all in the actions and not just the words," Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said.

The report by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) states nearly a 40-percent increase in immigration arrests.

In Hawaii, that is leading to some immigrants rushing to citizenship.

More than 100 immigrants took the oath as U.S. citizens on Wednesday at Honolulu's Mission Memorial Auditorium, some breathing a sigh of relief.

"That's why we hurried and did it right away," one immigrant said.

"The people are nice over here, they love each other. I never see they hate each other. So the people are nice over here, the system is nice. We love Hawaii," said Sofiul Alam, who is originally from Bangladesh.

The report claims 41,318 people have been arrested on civil immigration charges from January 22, 2017 to April 29, 2017, which is more than 400 arrests per day. Between January 24, 2016 and April 30, 2016, some 30,028 individuals were arrested.

The report also shows more than 150-percent increase in non-criminal arrests over the same period. Approximately 4,200 were arrested in 2016, compared to more than 10,800 arrested so far this year.

Honolulu City Councilmembers have asked the mayor and HPD not to use any county resources to help the federal government enforce immigration law.

Mayor Caldwell and Acting Police Chief Cary Okimoto say they won't, unless the feds ask for help with specific cases.

"We don't go out and enforce immigration violations. But if there's a hold on somebody and the federal government lets us know about that, it's for crimes, it's not for immigration violations. But we continue to work with the federal government in that aspect of what we do," Okimoto said.

"I think we're sending the appropriate message to President Trump that we're enforcing the laws of the land and we're doing it in the proper way and we're not finding people who are immigrants and turning them over to the federal government because we have a president who requests that we do that," Caldwell said.

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