excerpt from: Going full circle - Native land's new prosperity has many reversing their exodus
By Kevin Cullen, Globe Staff March 19, 2007
Second of two parts
Last year the Irish government also created an "Irish Abroad" unit and has thrown its weight behind the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, a US-based group that is advocating passage of a bill sponsored by US senators Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and John McCain of Arizona that would grant amnesty for some illegal immigrants and create a system by which others could apply for legal status. The bill has the support of the Bush administration, but it is opposed by many Republicans, who have framed the immigration issue as one of law and order.
"There is a wider recognition by the government of the contribution successive waves of Irish immigrants have made both to their new homelands and to Ireland, where many sent money back to their families, and our obligation to these communities," said Austin Gormley, a spokesman for the Irish government.
Ray O'Hanlon, author of "The New Irish Americans," said that while he has no doubts the Irish government wants its native-born to return, he is less sure of how well they understand the plight of the undocumented in America.
"There are many undocumented Irish in America who have too much to lose that they won't even risk traveling back to Ireland when relatives are sick or have died, or for weddings and births," O'Hanlon said.
Throughout the 1980s and even well into the 1990s, when Ireland's unemployment rate hovered around 20 percent, successive governments did little to prevent up to 30,000 people from leaving the country each year. But now, as the Irish government acknowledges its obligations to citizens who felt forced to leave the island, politicians have had to deal with what they call "the mammy factor," mothers in Ireland whose children are living illegally in the US, demanding the government do more to assist them.
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