Thursday, March 08, 2007

Daily Colonial: Irish Immigrants call for reform

Irish immigrants call for reform
Posted Thursday, March 8 2007 01:11:16 am
By Alison McCauley

The fresh blanket of snow on the ground didn’t keep Capitol Hill from being covered in green yesterday. The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform organized thousands from around the country to gain visibility and lobby legislators to support the McCain-Kennedy immigration reform bill.

The long lines extending from the House and Senate legislative office buildings were filled all day with demonstrators wearing ILIR’s signature “Legalize the Irish” t-shirts intermingled with Hill staffers chatting with one another about the unusual sight.

“A lot of people don’t even know the Irish have a problem,” an ILIR member named Una said. Una, who did not want to disclose her last name due to her illegal status, was born in Ireland and came to the U.S. 10 years ago. She met her husband, Dermot, here. She said the two have been married for six years and have a three-year-old daughter.

Dermot came to America 15 years ago and now runs his own construction company, which has 10 employees, in Yonkers, NY.

“Let us pay the taxes!” he said.

Dermot said that he pays his employees prevailing wages and carries out critical projects for his community and other parts of New York City. In the past, he obtained temporary visas to live and work in the U.S., he said, but after Sept. 11, 2001, his renewal requests were not approved.

Dermot is not alone. ILIR was founded by Niall O’Dowd and Ciaran Staunton in December 2005 to be a voice for the estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish immigrants who live in the U.S. today. Since they make up less than one percent of the 11 million illegal immigrants in America, it’s no wonder that they don’t receive much media attention. However, the organization may be slowly making headway in Congress.

Several members, including Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Sam Brownback (R-KS), and Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Anthony Weiner (D-NY), William Delahunt (D-MA), and Marty Meehan (D-MA), have attended ILIR rallies and spoken in support of the organization’s cause. Rep. Engel is a sponsor of the group, and a member of their advisory board. NY State Sen. Jeffrey Klein also sponsors ILIR, according to the the group's website.

At the kick-off event for ILIR about a year ago in Yonkers, O’Dowd said to the 400 or so gathered that it was their own fault that the Kennedy-McCain bill had faded away since its introduction to the Senate in May 2005.

At this year’s rally, close to 6,000 demonstrators came to Washington to urge their representatives to support the legislation.

The non-partisan organization actually supports stronger border security and caps on the numbers of immigrants issued visas. Many of ILIR’s leaders have a long history of successful diplomatic efforts to reduce violence in Northern Ireland.

Read full article at Daily Colonial website

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