I’m a proud Filipina immigrant who moved to Maui with my daughter four years ago after I married a U.S. citizen.
Yet I’m surprised how hard it’s been to for us to become legal residents.
There is no U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office on Maui. I’ve paid for multiple flights to Honolulu for interview and fingerprinting appointments. My daughter has missed school and I’ve missed precious sleep. I work nights as a nursing assistant at Maui Memorial Hospital.
I hope that USCIS will set up regular office hours on Neighbor Islands, especially here on Maui, where almost one in five people are immigrants. We often work in low-paying but critical agricultural, health care and hospitality jobs. Missing work and buying tickets to O’ahu is difficult on top of the $725 to $1,140 that we already pay in immigration fees.
According to a new report by New American Economy, more than 40,000 immigrants in Hawai’i are eligible to become citizens. I wish the process was easier for them. We need citizenship and English classes, access to computers and legal advisers to help us complete the application that’s over 20 pages long.
I love the beauty and aloha spirit of Maui and can’t wait for the opportunity to apply for citizenship in the next couple of years. I want all hard-working immigrants to realize their dreams.