Irish still among immigrants fighting to stay in the U.S.
By Dan Russo , STAFF WRITER
With St. Patrick's Day coming up this weekend, many in Delaware County make an effort this time of year to celebrate their immigrant roots.
Meanwhile, today's immigrants from Ireland and other places living among us are fighting to be heard in the national immigration debate which has pitted a strong focus on enforcement of current laws, with a push for reform.
"I've been speaking to people it's been six, seven, eight years they haven't gone home to see their families," said Brendan Byrne, [Councillor] Ireland's county Donegal when visiting Delaware County Saturday night.
He, Donegal [Councillor] Enda Bonner, and Irish Parliament Member of Parliament Pat Gallagher visited Delaware County's Irish community March 10 at the invitation of Upper Darby's Irish Immigration and Pastoral Center.
"If it were possible to legislate for the Irish alone, that would have been done, but legislation has to apply for all," Gallagher said to a crowd Saturday night. "Many young people, particularly when there's bereavements, they're going home regardless of the consequences."
About 1,000 Irish immigrants and their supporters from Pennsylvania took part in a demonstration in Washington D.C. Saturday hoping to raise awareness about the estimated 30,000 undocumented Irish living in America today. The Irish Prime Minister is also scheduled to visit the White House later this week.
"When you talk about immigration in America, you automatically assume Hispanic or Mexican," said Declan Mannion.
"There's an anti-immigrant feeling." Mannion is among an older generation of Irish immigrants. Now a U.S. Citizen, he was able to come over as part of world-wide lottery system which has now been scaled back.
It now allows a total of about 55,000 visas for dozens of countries, according to Thomas Conaghan, director of Upper Darby's Irish Center.
Temporary professional visas, and other forms of legal entry for immigrants across the board have also been cut since the 1996 Immigration Act became law, having a drastic impact on immigrants, particularly recent ones.
"Our community is withering," said Conaghan - who is now a citizen - of the Irish in America today.
"We don't want an open border. We want a legal path to immigration, particulary for undocumented people who have been here for a number of years, have families here, but are afraid to leave the country because they might not get back in."
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