Hawaii bill would ban licenses for some foreign fishermen

A catch of fish is unloaded from a commercial fishing boat at Pier 38 in Honolulu, in this Feb. 2 file photo. (AP)
Updated 23 February 2017
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Hawaii bill would ban licenses for some foreign fishermen

HONOLULU: Hawaii lawmakers are considering a proposal with the potential to cripple the state’s commercial fishing industry after an Associated Press investigation found foreign fishermen confined to boats and living in subpar conditions.
A 2016 AP investigation found that some fishermen earned less than $1 an hour and worked without most basic labor protections while catching premium seafood. The boats often have crews of fishermen from Southeast Asia and Pacific Island nations, and the men are restricted to their vessels when docked in Honolulu because they lack proper documentation to enter the US.
A bill in the Hawaii Legislature aims to change rules for how fishing licenses are issued to foreign crew members that make up the majority of the state’s commercial fleet.
Now, boat owners or captains bring foreign crew members’ passports and customs documents to a state agency to get their licenses — without the fishermen present. A federal legal loophole allows foreign fishermen to work off the coast of Hawaii, but they are technically not allowed to enter the country.
The bill would require anyone seeking a commercial fishing license in Hawaii to appear in person. State Sen. Karl Rhoads says he wants to change the law so people who are not permitted to enter the US cannot get a license to fish on American-flagged boats sailing from Honolulu.
“They just feel like the underdogs to me, and I don’t like to see people taken advantage of,” he said.
Despite the federal loophole, state laws require anyone applying for a fishing license to be “lawfully admitted” to the country.
US Customs and Border Protection says these men are banned, raising questions about whether the state has been violating its own law for years by allowing the foreign workers to catch and sell seafood in Hawaii.
“As the state, we don’t have a lot of jurisdiction over it, and this is a way to legitimately insert ourselves into the process, because we do require a license,” Rhoads said.
The Hawaii Longline Association opposed the bill, saying the industry is already regulated and additional requirements are unnecessary.
“It could lead to the use of no foreign crew in the fishery, which would be very devastating,” said Jim Cook, a member of the association’s board of directors. “It would be similar to having no immigrant people in agriculture in Hawaii or any other part of the United States.”
Two Hawaii Senate committees discussed the proposal Wednesday. A religious group that works with foreign fishermen opposed the bill saying the fishermen rely on the money they earn in the US But Kathryn Xian who works with trafficking victims said some fishermen are treated better than others, and the industry cannot be relied upon to self-regulate.
The committee postponed making a decision until next week.
Typically, when commercial fishing boats arrive in Honolulu, they are met by federal customs agents who ban foreign workers from entering the country by stamping “refused” on their landing permits.
But a written opinion by Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin said the state Department of Land and Natural Resources provides the landing permits as proof the fishermen are “lawfully admitted.”
Rhoads says the form allows someone to land but does not allow lawful entry as required for a license.
“Right now, it just feels like lots of gray area,” Rhoads said. “I think when there are gray areas, it’s easier to take advantage of people.”
Cook, of the fishing industry group, suggested that the fishermen who are refused entry could be granted “parole” to go to the office to apply for their licenses.
Federal customs officials referred AP to federal immigration law that says parole can be given on a case-by-case basis for “urgent humanitarian reasons” or “significant public benefit.”
Foreign fishermen usually get parole only when they have a medical emergency or they are being escorted to the airport to leave the country.
But Cook said he believes there is also a parole category for ship business. Federal officials did not immediately respond to a request for clarification on that possibility.


EU to respond to any US auto tariff move: report

Updated 23 June 2018
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EU to respond to any US auto tariff move: report

  • Trump threatened to impose 20 percent tariff
  • Shares in carmakers slip on trade war fears

PARIS: The European Union will respond to any US move to raise tariffs on cars made in the bloc, a senior European Commission official said, the latest comments in an escalating trade row.
US President Donald Trump on Friday threatened to impose a 20 percent tariff on all imports of EU-assembled cars, a month after his administration launched an investigation into whether auto imports posed a national security threat.
“If they decide to raise their import tariffs, we’ll have no choice, again, but to react,” EU Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen told French newspaper Le Monde.
“We don’t want to fight (over trade) in public via Twitter. We should end the escalation,” he said in the comments published on Saturday.
The European Autos Stocks Index fell on Friday after Trump’s tariff threat. Shares US carmakers Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. also dropped.
“If these Tariffs and Barriers are not soon broken down and removed, we will be placing a 20% Tariff on all of their cars coming into the US Build them here!” Trump tweeted.
The US Commerce Department has a deadline of February 2019 to investigate whether imports of automobiles and auto parts pose a risk to US national security.
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Thursday the department aimed to wrap up the probe by late July or August. The Commerce Department plans to hold two days of public comments in July on its investigation of auto imports.
Trump has repeatedly singled out German auto imports to the United States for criticism.
Trump told carmakers at a meeting in the White House on May 11 that he was planning to impose tariffs of 20 or 25 percent on some imported vehicles and sharply criticized Germany’s automotive trade surplus with the United States.
The United States currently imposes a 2.5 percent tariff on imported passenger cars from the EU and a 25 percent tariff on imported pickup trucks. The EU imposes a 10 percent tariff on imported US cars.
The tariff proposal has drawn sharp condemnation from Republican lawmakers and business groups. A group representing major US and foreign automakers has said it is “confident that vehicle imports do not pose a national security risk.”
The US Chamber of Commerce said US auto production had doubled over the past decade, and said tariffs “would deal a staggering blow to the very industry it purports to protect and would threaten to ignite a global trade war.”
German automakers Volkswagen AG, Daimler AG and BMW AG build vehicles at plants in the United States. BMW is one of South Carolina’s largest employers, with more than 9,000 workers in the state.
The United States in 2017 accounted for about 15 percent of worldwide Mercedes-Benz and BMW brand sales. It accounts for 5 percent of Volkswagen’s VW brand sales and 12 percent of its Audi brand sales.