Thursday, June 29, 2006

Irish Storm the Hill

A sea of "Legalize the Irish" tees shirts flooded Capitol Hill yesterday.

Irish-Americans from all over the country came to tell Congress they should get on with the work of comprehensive immigration reform by appointing the conference committee to move the legislation forward immediately.

The Irish-American visitors to the Hill questioned the wisdom of further delay on legislation to secure our borders. They explained that every day of delay is another day of suffering for the undocumented Irish, the communities they live in, and their families at home.

Ordinary people demonstrated just how important this issue was to Irish America, by taking extra personal and vacation days to travel to DC the week before the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

As they met with legislators and staff in dozens of scheduled appointments and knocked on doors seeking additional walk-in appointments, the message was crystal clear: Irish-America is keeping a keen eye on the issue of immigration reform.

Summer interns and other young adults eagerly approached Irish Lobby delegates for a Legalize the Irish tee shirt. In the House cafeteria, one young woman from Utah expressed her love for the Irish and her support for legislation that could help them earn legal status.

In the late afternoon, the Irish Lobby delegates returned to their staging point for a massive rally. Numerous elected officials scrambled to participate and express their support of comprehensive immigration reform. The Cray & Dempsey Experience provided musical entertainment at the event.

Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), and Sam Brownback (R-KS) were among the dignitaries lucky enough to address the crowd. The crowd was also addresed by Massachusetts Representatives Jim McGovern and Richie Neal, and New York Representatives Anthony Weiner (D-NY) and Joe Crowley (D-NY). After speaking, Representative Crowley picked up a guitar and shared a song (the Girl from County Down) with the crowd.

Those of you who joined the Irish Lobby on Capitol Hill are urged to share your story of the day in the comments section.


Anonymous said...

You forgot the TD's who spoke at the rally. The "Friends of the undocumented in the United States" said America should appreciate us because we can find work at home but lprefer to live here even with all the difficulties.

As Paul Connaughton of Galway said to the Congressmen he met, "You're lucky to have us."

Anonymous said...

From Ted kennedy's Website (

Kennedy at Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform Rally
“Thank you, Niall O’Dowd, for that generous introduction and I commend you and the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform for organizing this event.

It’s an honor to be here with all of you today. As an Irish-American, it’s inspiring to be here and look out across the room and see the American dream in action. Thank you for your enthusiasm.

You’ve all done a tremendous job in making the voices of the Irish and Irish-Americans heard on Capitol Hill throughout this ongoing debate on immigration reform.

As you all know, million of undocumented immigrants are living and working today in communities across America. They live in constant fear of deportation and are easy targets for abuse and exploitation by unprincipled employers.

Families are unjustly torn apart for years, even decades. Many of them refuse to endure the separation, and instead risk their future by living here together without legal status.

Fifty-thousand Irish immigrants live in the shadows in the United States. We’re all united here today in our commitment to do the right thing – to bring them out of the shadows, break the shackles of exploitation and fear that bind them, and to bring them into the mainstream of American life.

They’re what this debate is about. It is about good people who come to America to work, to raise their families, to contribute to their communities, and to reach for the American dream.

The debate goes to the very heart of who we are as Americans. It will decide who can earn the privilege of citizenship.

It will determine our strength in separating those who would harm us from those who contribute to our ideals.

It will determine our future progress as a nation and our economic growth in the years ahead.

Some in Congress want to turn America away from its true spirit. They believe immigrants are criminals. That’s false.

They say you should report to deport. I say report to become American citizens.

Congress must act on immigration reform now – and the sooner the better. Each day we delay, more and more immigrants enter the underground economy.

We cannot wait any longer for new immigration solutions to show themselves. The answer already exists. The Senate has already passed it. We’re ready to move forward, and with your strong help, we can get it done.

Thank you.”

–Tristan Takos

Saoirse said...

I am an undocumented Irish woman who went to Washington on June 28th to tell Congress my story and to listen to their concerns about the immigration system in this great country.

Some representatives and staffers congratulated me on my efforts to keep this issue alive. Others spoke frankly and told me I should not be in the United States.

I was part of a group that spoke to Jack Kingston's (R-GA) Chief of Staff (a big fellow originally from Belle Harbor/Rockaway Beach, NYC) for over 30 minutes. He never invited us in past the doorway, but we were happy to be able to speak with him. He stood there and talked to about his desire to make this country safer by securing the borders.

At one point he even admitted that the enforcement-only bill passed by the House in December 2005 (HR 4437) was not going to work. I asked him why the House was taking so long to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

Looking back, I wish I asked him why his boss voted for HR 4437 if they do not think it will work.

paddy cakes said...

Oh, HR 4437 will work alright. Just give it a chance.