Sunday, March 26, 2006

NewsWatch: Letter writers swamp Sunday Independent

On March 26, the Sunday Independent published this note:
Tax-paying Irish living in USA take exception to 'rat' claim

Several letters on this topic were received making the same points, so, in the interest of space, and avoiding repetition, this is a representation.

Sir - We were very distressed to see your newspaper publish such a negative article by Eilis O'Hanlon. Her remarks regarding the undocumented Irish immigrants present in the US were downright reckless and full of inaccuracies. Her suggestions that the undocumented Irish in the US at the moment have anything to do with supporting the Ku Klux Klan and the IRA are inaccurate and unsupported by any citation to published proof or evidence.

She alleges, without evidence, that the Irish pay no tax in the US and probably didn't in the nation "they buggered off from". Contrary to this report, the undocumented in the US pay millions of dollars each year through the use of Internal Revenue Service issued tax identification numbers. In fact, according to a published report in the Washington Post and reprinted by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, between 1990 and 1998 undocumented workers paid nearly $20 billion to Social Security.

The facts are that there is no evidence presented within her article to support any of the allegations made by Ms O'Hanlon. At the Irish Pastoral Center in Massachusetts, we assist undocumented Irish immigrants each day on our hotlines. We see many who are exploited in the workplace, living in fear of reporting crimes committed upon them, and unable to go home to bury parents and loved ones. We see young men from Ireland work long hours for comparably low pay and we have lost some workers - killed in unsafe worksite accidents. We've had young women sexually assaulted in the workplace, too afraid to report the harassment to authorities because of their immigration status.

Many of the undocumented are living in great stress, depressed about their lack of status. We take thousands of such calls like these each year. This hardly suggests the undocumented Irish are "living it up" as Ms O'Hanlon suggests. The declaration that the young Irish immigrants, unaware of the complexity of visa matters upon their entry, working here waiting to be granted status are "rats" is deplorable and demeaning. We look forward to the reform of US immigration laws to allow hardworking, tax paying immigrants a chance to adjust their status here in America.
Sr Marguerite Kelly, Executive Director
Fr John McCarthy, Chaplain,
Irish Pastoral Centre, 953 Hancock St, Quincy, MA 02170USA

Sir - I am disgusted, insulted and offended by your remarks and your attitude towards your own people who have emigrated to America (Eilis O'Hanlon, Sunday Independent, 19/03/06).
The plight of the Irish in America is a fact. There are thousands who cannot visit home for funerals, weddings, visitation of the sick, because they are "illegal". The vast majority of us did not "sneak" into the country as Ms O'Hanlon indicated. Many came on the Visa Waiver programme and many including myself came on a work permit.

The few that have to resort to "sneaking" into the country are forced to do so due to a failed immigration policy in this country. Many of these men and women are returning to an established life here. Many have sons and daughters born in the US.

You say that we never paid taxes in Ireland and now can't be bothered paying them in the USA. Oh, how uneducated you are, my girl. I paid taxes in England and Ireland for over 15 years. I never claimed any type of social welfare and played my role in contributing to national GDP.
On this side of the pond, I also pay my taxes. This is a very important point. It is possible to obtain a tax ID number over here. A form W7 is completed and a tax ID number issued. This allows the immigrant to pay taxes.

In fact, many immigrants are unaware of this and instead they work under false social security numbers. The bottom line is - we do pay our taxes here. You mentioned the Irish illegals deserting the sinking mother ship when times were hard. Get real girl. The sinking ship was kept afloat by the hundreds of thousands of dollars that were sent home in the form of the remittance.

For hundreds of years Irish emigration has been a given. What choice did we have but to emigrate. During the famine years alone the population decreased by millions. Believe me, if they stayed, your mother ship may have sunk.

The newly formed ILIR group is petitioning every senator and congressman in the whole country to support the Kennedy/McCain bill. It is the best option for the undocumented. Please note, we are at the front line of the battle over here. Approximately 50,000 Irish people are undocumented out of a total 11 million.

Yes, we the Irish are at the forefront of this campaign to legalise 11 million people including the poor Mexicans and others that you refer to in your article. We want all immigrants in this country to be legalised. Immigrants built this country and although you don't sound so proud of your Irish heritage, I am proud of the fact that the Irish built the railroads, the skyscrapers, the tunnels and the highways. Many of them died while doing it. Why should we be cast aside now?

Rebel songs will be sung in every corner of the world where there is an Irish man. They are also sung in almost every bar in Ireland. I don't think you yourself had to live with the direct consequences of the IRA that you seem to believe caused all the damage on our tiny island. The IRA is a symptom and not the cause of the violence in Ireland. I think you may thank Sinn Fein for being a major player in bringing stability to that island and you may thank Irish America for channeling their support to the American government and pushing for as much American involvement in the peace process.

Finally, a note to all the immigrants in Ireland. You are heartily welcome provided you work hard, respect your host country and pledge your loyalty to our flag. That's what immigrants are required to do in the US.
I feel more akin to the immigrant in Ireland than some of our own natives. We too have to do the menial work in America, believe it or not.
Ann Conlon, Legal Immigrant New York

If you would like to email the editor of the Sunday Independent, please email

NewsWatch: Eilis O'Hanlon Calls Irish Undocumented "Rats"

Eilis O'Hanlon, writing in the Sunday Independent on March 19, 2006, referred to the undocumented Irish as "rats". Needless to say, this provoked a storm of protest. For those of you who did not see the article, we are including it here:

Emigrants' plight we'd gladly share
IMMIGRANTS. Dontcha just love 'em? They come over here and work for a pittance, doing all the jobs we're too grand for these days, ensuring in the process that the Celtic Tiger keeps ticking over and that Ireland's a much more interesting, diverse and cosmopolitan country than it's ever been before in its history - and all they get in return is an earful of abuse and the blame for everything from the recent riots in Dublin to our appalling road safety statistics. Meanwhile, we're all supposed to be getting sentimental about the "plight" of our own illegal emigrants in the US.

This "plight", presumably, is that they've been living it up in the world's most dynamic and successful economy for years while paying no tax or national insurance, either in the country they sneaked into or the one they buggered off from, and who now have Irish politicians bending over backwards to help them out. That's the kind of plight we could all do with sharing, lads. Don't pay your Dirt tax in Ballydehob and you're a national disgrace. Don't pay any tax in Boston and you're apparently a national hero.

Irish illegals in America deserted the sinking mother ship when times were hard, and now the vessel's afloat again the rats expect us to help them out. And though Bertie has said he wants no special deal for the Irish, there are mutterings from others to say that if the current McCain/Kennedy bill fails then we should try to do a deal for our own. And to hell with all the poor Mexicans, Cubans, Chinese, Indians, Africans etc who need much more of a helping hand than we do. Why should we be a special case? Because we helped build the railroads?

Yeah, and we also helped build the Ku Klux Klan. You never hear Irish politicians boasting about that at the White House on Paddy's Day. What's hilarious is that the Irish illegals are now under pressure because, post 9/11, Americans are more sensitive about security and terrorism.

I bet some of those expats don't feel so blase now about all those years they spent out there singing rebel songs and drumming up support for the IRA while the rest of us back here actually had to live with the consequences. Still, if they're caught, I suppose they can always claim they were only birdwatching, like the Colombia Three.
Eilis O'Hanlon

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Seamus: Update on Action Alert of March 16

So, I called the number for Specter's committee and the man who answered asked me if my call was related to immigration reform. When I answered yes, he put me through to voicemail! Keep those phone calls coming! We're having an impact!

Seamus: Greetings from Washington

After months of checking on the website, reading about other meetings, and going to our respective meetings , finally we were all in D.C together. Our purpose in Washington in more carefree times would have been to do a bit of sightseeing, and take in some of the restaurants. However, we needed to drop off our calling cards, so after registering at the Holiday Inn, and standing for the group photograph, it was onto Capitol Hill. Jimmy negotiated us safely to the steps of the Longworth Building, and, failing to secure the services of any decent bagpiper, we decided to enter quietly,
At each office that we went to, the staff were very polite to us, and we stated our case as clearly as possible, even though we didn`t always adhere to the notes.
Wednesday morning finds a lot of the Representatives over at the House, dealing with legislation, but their officials were, in general, very attentive. Most of them said they`d pass the paperwork onto the absent Congressmen and Congresswomen.
Representative Sanchez from the 47th District of California was very happy to see us, and exorted us to `let-them-know-it`s-not-just-Mexicans`. Her mind was soon at ease when we told her that there were 2,500 thousand of us around the corridors. We finished our meeting with Ms. Sanchez by serenading Kate Rose Riley, her legislative assistant, with `The Rose Of Tralee`, as she represented D.C in the 2005 Rose Of Tralee Final, in Tralee.
We called into a few Leadership Offices, also, and some of them wanted us to come back, later in the day, to meet the Committee people, and probably to have fun, too
.After most of us got something to eat, we went back to the hotel for the speeches. All of the speakers seemed to be on our side, and they truly gave us a lot of optimism, but, being Irish, we know that the `divil is always in the details`.
Listening to Edward Kennedy`s rivetting address, the words of his late brother Bobby ran through my head;
"Some men see things as they are and ask `Why?`
I dream things that never were and ask `Why not?`"
Thank you to Kelly, Ciaran and Niall for putting this whole movement together for us, it`s making a massive difference, and we can definitely got this thing accomplished, working together.