USCCR Letter Re: The Akaka Bill

August 28th, 2009 by admin Leave a reply »

August 28, 2009

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Speaker

The Honorable John Boehner, Republican Leader

The Honorable Harry Reid, Majority Leader

The Honorable Mitch McConnell, Republican Leader

The Honorable Nick J. Rahall II, Chairman, Committee on Natural Resources

The Honorable Doc Hastings, Ranking Member, Committee on Natural Resources

The Honorable Byron Dorgan, Chairman, Committee on Indian Affairs

The Honorable John Barrasso, Vice Chairman, Committee on Indian Affairs

The Honorable John Conyers, Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary

The Honorable Lamar Smith, Ranking Member, Committee on the Judiciary

The Honorable Patrick Leahy, Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary

The Honorable Jeff Sessions, Ranking Member, Committee on the Judiciary

Re: Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act

Dear Distinguished Members of Congress:

Three years ago, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a report opposing the

passage of the proposed Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act. Although that

report focused on an earlier version of the proposed legislation, that earlier version was

substantially similar to S. 1011. Specifically, the report stated:

“The Commission recommends against passage of the Native Hawaiian

Government Reorganization Act … or any other legislation that would

discriminate on the basis of race or national origin and further subdivide the

American People into discrete subgroups accorded varying degrees of privilege.”

We write today to reiterate our opposition to the proposal.1 We do not believe

Congress has the constitutional authority to “reorganize” racial or ethnic groups into

dependent sovereign nations unless those groups have a long and continuous history of

separate self-governance.  Moreover, quite apart from the issue of constitutional

authority, creating such an entity sets a harmful precedent.  Ethnic Hawaiians will surely

not be the only group to demand such treatment.  On what ground will Congress tell these

other would-be tribes no?

Some advocates of S. 1011 readily concede that the bill is an effort to preserve the

State of Hawaii’s current practice of conferring an array of special benefits exclusively

on its ethnic Hawaiian citizens—to the detriment of it citizens of African, Asian,

European or other heritage.  In essence, it is an attempted end-run around the Supreme

Court’s decisions in Rice v. Cayetano2 and City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co.3 The

Constitution, however, cannot be circumvented so easily. And even if it could be, we

would oppose passing legislation with the purpose of shoring up a system of racially

exclusive benefits.4

In closing we would like to point out that in 1840, the Kingdom of Hawaii adopted

a Constitution with a bicameral, multi-racial legislature.  The Constitution was signed by

two hands—that of Kamehameha’s son King Kamehameha III and that of the holder of

the second-highest office in the nation, Keoni Ana, the son of the British-born Hawaiian

Minister John Young.  Its opening sentence, the substance of which was suggested by an

American missionary, was based loosely on a Biblical verse:   “Ua hana mai ke Akua i na

lahuikanaka a pau i ke koko hookahi, e noho like lakou ma ka honua nei me ke kuikahi, a

me ka pomaikai.” Translated, the passage might read: “God has made of one blood all

races of people to dwell upon this Earth in unity and blessedness.”

It would be ironic to attempt to honor the dynamic, cosmopolitan Kingdom of

Hawaii by disdaining these words.5 We urge you to vote against the measure.

If you would like any further information or we can do anything else to assist you,

please do not hesitate to ask.  We can be reached through the Chairman’s special

assistant, Dominique Ludvigson, at (202) 376-7626 or at

Thank you for your attention.


Gerald A. Reynolds


Abigail Thernstrom

Vice Chair

Todd Gaziano


Gail Heriot


Peter Kirsanow


Ashley Taylor, Jr.


cc: Commissioner Arlan Melendez

Commissioner Michael Yaki

Download the original PDF: Letter on Akaka Bill Aug 28 2009


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