I want to write something on this website in regard to the hundreds of Irish H1 Visa workers in America.
First of all, speaking for myself as a H1 visa holder, I want all the undocumented Irish people to know that I support your effort one hundred percent. I believe that all other visa holders, whether they are H1, J1 or any other visa class support you too; at least I hope so.
I have a mix of Irish documented and undocumented friends here in New York. They are equally hard working and equally dedicated to maintaining the lives they lead here in the USA. They are equal in their respect for this nation and for all that it stands for. They are proud to be Irish and just as proud to be in America, whichever way they got here.
They are not equal however when it comes to conversations about going home to see newborn children, attend funerals and weddings of loved ones, or just visit family. When your friends and family that you love and care for are undocumented, you try not to mention your visa much. You think before you complain about your boss or your wages.
You are careful not to go on too much about your problems because nothing you say (and I mean nothing) will ever compare with the pain they will face when there is an emergency at home they cannot attend to. It takes a loving mature friendship to cross the visa or green card divide - I know because I live it.
So again, let me reiterate my support for all the undocumented who desperately want to stay, work and live in America.
I'm glad to be legal, but it didn't fall out of the sky into my lap. I worked hard for it and I was lucky to spot an opportunity and luckier still that it all worked out for me. Now, I get paid a wage that just barely covers my needs. I can't afford a car even though I have the luxury of being allowed a license. Also, like many Americans born in this country, I do not have Health Insurance benefits. So having a visa is no walk in the park; we can be bumped off anytime with no comeback. If the job finishes and they don't want you it's goodbye. What happens to us then after making a life and falling in love here? We have to go too.
I haven't heard much mention of what will happen to visa holders if the path to citizenship comes in - will we be included? No one knows yet. For visa holders, the path to citizenship is equally as long and fragile you have to be here legally for several years before filing for a green card and then you join the queue, same as everyone else with no shortcuts. I have been making calls to Senators and Congressmen. I have attended several fundraising events for the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform. In my own small way, I tried to lend a hand to raise the profile of the ILIR and the need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. In fact, I am planning to wear a Legalize the Irish tee shirt to Washington DC next week to attend the House hearings on immigration.
I think all the undocumented Irish in our community should step forward and lend more support to the effort. I cannot understand those few who would sit back and let others carry their load. I just hope that by the time the Green Cards finally do come for the Irish, we can all look back and be proud of the role we played in making it happen.
Mise le meas, Mary, New York