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
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