Wednesday, January 31, 2007
at 7:30pm on Thursday, February 1, 2007
United Irish Cultural Center
2700 45th Avenue (at Sloat Boulevard)
An informational meeting and rally are scheduled.
For more information contact the Irish Immigration Pastoral Center at 415 752 6006.
30 January 2007
When any region of the United States has required workers for large building projects, immigrant workers have historically been relied upon. A recent increase in construction in New York City has resulted in a shortage of construction workers and, once again, America is looking for immigrants to help.
One of the largest building booms in New York City's history is currently under way, and the construction industry may soon have trouble finding enough young workers to fill all the jobs.
The New York Building Congress, a coalition of construction businesses in the region, says that, a growing number of the 275,000 construction workers they employ are young immigrants. After a slow-down in construction for the years immediately following the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, the building industry is again starting to worry that immigration laws may restrict future growth.
"One of the great implications here is the importance of immigration," according to Richard T. Anderson, president of the Building Congress. "We have a big stake in reasonable immigration legislation."
Contrary to conventional wisdom, Mr. Anderson said, the typical construction worker in the city is not an older, white suburbanite who commutes, but a younger city resident who is almost as likely to have been born abroad as in America.
In the last 10 years, Mr. Anderson said, the average age of construction workers in the city has dropped to 40 from 51. Almost half of them, 47%, were born abroad, he said.
Of the 275,000 workers, 123,000 are in construction, according to a report the group released this week. That number has risen almost 15% since 2004, marking the end of a three-year downturn. It is higher than the previous peak reached in 2001, according to State Labor Department figures.
William C. Thompson Jr., the city comptroller, said the strength of the city's housing boom surprised everyone, and is an important contributor to the "great shape" the city's finances are in. However, he cautioned that the rapid development of expensive housing has been driving municipal workers and middle-class families out of the city.
"Right now we have an affordable-housing crisis," Mr. Thompson said.
According to the report, 72% of all of the city's construction workers live in the city, most of them in Brooklyn and Queens. Most real estate workers live in Manhattan and most building services workers live in Staten Island and Queens.
In the building industry, the highest average wages go to workers in heavy and civil construction ($68,900), architectural and engineering services ($68,000), real estate ($47,600) and building services ($32,800), the report said.
It is likely that tens of thousands more immigrant workers will be needed in the construction industry in the next year or two. The industry may benefit from a Democrat controlled United States Congress. However, Congress needs to act quickly with their immigration reforms before their term ends in 2009.
Many industries are beginning to lobby the Congress with their own ideas and goals of how they would like to see immigration reform shaped. Also, many current members of the Democratically controlled Congress have promised serious and substantial reform legislation to the voters.
2007 and 2008 currently look like there could be some of the most significant changes in U.S. immigration policy in over a decade.
for a link to this article click HERE.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Many draw line at 'amnesty'
By Nicole Gaouette, Los Angeles Times January 30, 2007
WASHINGTON -- With a new Democratic-controlled Congress and a president newly committed to bipartisan accomplishments, prospects for an overhaul of US immigration laws have never seemed brighter.
But reform efforts could stumble over the stickiest issue: how to craft a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants that will win the support of lawmakers who draw the line at "amnesty."
In the House, where these conservatives could derail a bill, the job of finding that middle ground falls to Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California, who heads the immigration subcommittee.
"There's a way to deal with this," she said. "The Republicans I've listened to make it clear they're open to dialogue, to practical solutions."
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, are pursuing the same goal as they develop a plan based on last year's comprehensive immigration bill, which passed the Senate but not the House.
In his State of the Union address last week, President Bush stressed advances in border security and enforcement, a pitch to lawmakers who are nervous about reforms that could be seen as rewarding people who entered the country illegally. Advocates for a broad immigration bill say it will need the support of at least 20 Republicans in the Senate and perhaps 40 in the House.
"They exist, they just have to be reassured about some things," said Tamar Jacoby, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute who backs comprehensive immigration reform. "How do you bring along the people who said 'no' last year?"
The approach Bush took in his speech is a good start, she said. "He talked to them about border security, illegality in communities, assimilation, about working with local cops and communities. I think it's shrewd. I don't know if he can move those people, but the way to do it is address those concerns."
The Senate bill that passed last year encompassed stepped-up enforcement, a program to let immigrants in as guest workers, and a process for illegal immigrants to become legal.
The Senate seems likely to pass a similar bill this session.
In contrast, the House passed an enforcement-only bill last year, but never debated broader legislation. House leaders will not only have to appeal to Republicans, but to freshmen Democrats who campaigned for tougher immigration enforcement.
As a result, lawmakers are crafting legislation with conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans in mind.
"A lot of members of Congress made campaign promises, so one of the challenges is to create a comprehensive bill that's consistent with the commitments people made during the campaign," said Representative Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, a co sponsor of the House version of the Senate bill.
In the first three weeks of Congress, Republicans introduced enforcement bills in both chambers and offered tough immigration-related amendments to unrelated Senate legislation.
A bipartisan Senate group proposed a bill that would give illegal farm workers a way to become legal permanent residents, a step toward citizenship. And Democrats announced their intention to reexamine the plan to build a 700-mile fence along America's southern border, which the previous Congress passed.
"Our challenge is to come up with a bill that will get broad support," said Lofgren. "The House bill that passed last year was a very Draconian measure. That's not what the country wants, nor what I intend to pursue, but we need to have a dialogue. I'm hoping for a comprehensive package, but I'm pretty confident I'm not going to get everything I want."
She warned that the House process will be slower than the Senate's, but said that she believes lawmakers are ready to act, particularly after watching anti-immigrant colleagues like former representative J.D. Hayworth, Republican of Arizona, lose to candidates who back comprehensive reform.
Senate leaders Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, and Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, have made immigration one of the first 10 bills they will take on. McCain and Kennedy are aiming to introduce their legislation in February and are reexamining the section on legalizing illegal immigrants.
The previous bill included a three-tiered approach to illegal immigrants based on length of stay in the United States, requiring some to leave and allowing others to stay.
It was designed to appeal to conservatives uncomfortable about treating newly arrived illegal immigrants the same as those who have been in the country for many years .
But the Bush administration has told lawmakers that is unworkable.
For a link to this article as it appears on the Boston Globe website, click here.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
FLORIDA'S MARTINEZ A LEADER
Support Grows for Immigration Plan
By Cory Reiss
Ledger Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - The buzz around the Republican National Committee was that Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida would face a challenge to his election as general chairman because he wants to give illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. That made headlines. But when a Jan. 12 voice vote of the 168-member RNC rolled around, the nays could be counted on one hand.
The skimpy protest among the party's activist elite begs a question: How deep is the animosity among Republicans toward comprehensive immigration reform, and where does the issue stand on Republicans' priority list?
Republicans have been wrestling with that rift throughout President Bush's tenure. With a Democrat-controlled Congress more sympathetic to Bush's renewed call for comprehensive reform, which he made in his State of the Union address last week, Republicans face a decision about bridging this internal divide or baring it for the 2008 elections.
"I think it says a huge amount," Martinez, a native of Cuba who is now the face of the GOP, said of the size of the no vote. "The vitriolic opposition to any comprehensive immigration reform - that's not mainstream Republicanism, I don't think."
The Iraq war overshadowed much of Bush's State of the Union speech last week, but he focused on domestic policy in four areas: health insurance, energy, the budget and immigration. Of those proposals, conventional wisdom on Capitol Hill says his best chance for success under a Democrat-controlled Congress is with immigration, but members of his own party have been the problem.
"Extending hope and opportunity in our country requires an immigration system worthy of America - with laws that are fair and borders that are secure," Bush said.
Republican hardliners in the House killed legislation in line with Bush's proposals last year, after the Senate passed it, and approved a rival enforcement-only bill. Those House Republicans say they have lost momentum and numbers, with defeat in November of key supporters.
"Now we are completely in the defensive mode again," said Rep. Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican who led the anti-"amnesty" charge.
Still, opponents of the Bush plan said the minor protest at the RNC was a positive sign, given the pressure on committee members to unanimously support the president's choice for the job.
"I'm surprised we got any no's at all," said Jim Boulet Jr., executive director of the group English First and master of the web site stopmartinez.com.
THROUGH THE 'WILDERNESS'
Republicans in Florida, a state with such a mix of languages that Tancredo late last year compared Miami to a third-world country, reflect the party divisions.
Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Fla., said for example that she doesn't buy the definition of "amnesty" offered by Bush and Martinez, who propose a fine on some 12 million illegal immigrants for breaking U.S. law and thus argue they do not support amnesty. But Brown-Waite said that as far as this issue is concerned, Bush is better off with Democrats in control.
"Unfortunately, I do think he will succeed with Democrats, who support a liberal immigration policy," she said.
Rep. Adam Putnam of Florida, the third-ranking Republican in the House, has supported giving illegal immigrants legal status and the opportunity for citizenship under strict conditions. But he is treading lightly on that as he tries to help Republicans regroup for the next elections.
"I see a way through the wilderness on immigration," Putnam said. "The thing about immigration is it's not really a partisan issue."
That's true to some extent. House Republicans against Bush's plan said they are now counting on the fiscally conservative, mostly Southern Democrats in the Blue Dog Coalition to side with them. Many of those members have opposed the route to citizenship. Democrats won the House with considerable help from Blue Dog victories, and those freshmen will feel pressure from both sides. Still, the coalition chairman, Rep. Allen Boyd of Florida, sides with Bush.
"I think it's an area we could probably find agreement on," Boyd said.
An immigration bill co-authored by Martinez, which included giving legal status to illegal immigrants, passed the Senate last year, 62-36.
House Republican leaders, minding the vocal opposition in their ranks, killed it. Some members on both sides say that an immigration bill targeting agriculture workers, also co-sponsored by Martinez, could provide a middle ground and a first step if a broader bill proves unreachable.
Now Democrats are pressuring Bush to lean on congressional Republicans as maneuvering begins on the next reform bills."The only way we're going to get things done is if the president steps up to the plate and stands up to the right wing of his party," said an aide to Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader.
ASSIMILATE POR FAVOR
Polls on immigration last year suggested that the majority of Americans don't think border security is strong enough. But immigration tended to rank low on the voters' priority list before the election.
Several polls showed strong majorities in favor of giving illegal immigrants legal status and a route to citizenship.
With Republicans plotting a way back to the majority, immigration could be a fork in the road.
Bush is making a play for Latino voters by tapping Martinez, who routinely gives interviews in Spanish, to lead.
Bush is reaching out to Republican nay-sayers as well. In his State of the Union message, he highlighted his administration's crackdown on employers and pledged border enforcement.
"We need to uphold the great tradition of the melting pot that welcomes and assimilates new arrivals," Bush said. "We need to resolve the status of the illegal immigrants who are already in our country without animosity and without amnesty."
People on both sides said they support Bush's call for assimilation.
"It's really important that people...assimilate into the American way of life," said Martinez, who told the RNC that his journey from Cuban immigrant to lawyer and U.S. senator epitomizes the American dream. "That's what I did."
Friday, January 26, 2007
By James Rowley
Jan. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Democrats are demanding President George W. Bush deliver significant support -- likely more than a quarter of all House Republicans -- to ensure passage of a bipartisan overhaul of U.S. immigration law.
Democrats say they won't shoulder the responsibility alone for any comprehensive and politically sensitive plan that includes Bush's proposals to give 12 million illegal aliens a chance at citizenship and to create a guest-worker program. The president made his latest pitch for the plan in his State of the Union address this week.
Substantial Republican support is ``a prerequisite,'' said Democratic Representative Howard Berman of California. Key Democrats and congressional aides from both parties suggest 50 to 60 of the House's 202 Republicans is the minimum backing to guarantee passage. ``I would hope the number would be closer to 100,'' said Illinois Democrat Luis Gutierrez, a sponsor of immigration reform.
Last year, the Republican-controlled House thwarted Bush's drive to revamp immigration as members of his own party decried what they said was an amnesty program for illegal aliens. Instead, they approved a 700-mile fence last year to tighten the U.S.-Mexico border.
The president and the new Democratic-controlled Congress now find themselves uneasy allies on the issue.
``Extending hope and opportunity in our country requires an immigration system worthy of America with laws that are fair and borders that are secure,'' Bush said in the State of the Union speech. ``We cannot fully secure the border'' without a temporary worker program, he said.
``The only way for us to do meaningful immigration reform is for it to be bipartisan,'' said Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, the third-ranking House Democrat. ``If that issue's politicized, we're not going to get anywhere.''
There are at least 175 House Democrats who would support comprehensive legislation, Gutierrez said. If Republicans produce from 50 to 60 votes, that would put the plan over the top with room to spare and provide the bipartisan political cover both sides want.
``It ain't going to happen without the support of Republican members -- if it happens,'' said Illinois Representative Rahm Emanuel, a Democratic House leader and supporter of revamping immigration law.
Rounding up enough Republican support won't be easy, given that such Republican leaders as Roy Blunt, the No. 2 Republican in the House, opposes Bush's approach providing a path for undocumented immigrants to gain legal status and eventually citizenship. ``I could not support a plan that allows citizenship as a reward for coming into the country illegally,'' Blunt, a Missouri Republican, said last week.
There is also the question of how many of the 42 freshman House Democrats elected last November will support a bipartisan plan.
``A lot of them ran tough enforcement-oriented platforms'' to get elected, said Angela Kelley, deputy director of the National Immigration Forum, a Washington advocacy group representing labor and business organizations that support immigration reform.
The House voted 239-182 in 2005 to strengthen border security and impose criminal penalties on the estimated 500,000 aliens who cross the border illegally each year. There were no provisions for a guest-worker program or to legalize the status of undocumented immigrants. Just 17 Republicans voted against the bill, underscoring the hurdles facing any bipartisan compromise.
By contrast, bipartisan support is plentiful in the Senate. In May, 23 Republicans, 38 Democrats and one independent approved comprehensive legislation sponsored by Massachusetts Democrat Edward M. Kennedy and Arizona Republican John McCain that would provide illegal immigrants with a path to citizenship.
Arizona Republican Representative Jeff Flake, a sponsor of comprehensive immigration legislation, said he is hopeful for compromise. ``A good section of my party'' will buy that idea, he said, drawing a parallel with bipartisan support for raising the minimum wage.
Many Republicans have concluded ``we have to deal with the issue,'' said Flake, who was kicked off the House Judiciary Committee by Republican leaders because of his pro-immigration stance.
Berman of California also said he thinks many Republicans will join Democrats once the issue comes to the House floor.
``They tried to do it their way,'' he said. ``They got nothing.''
To read the article on the Bloomberg wensite click here.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Wed, Jan 24, 2007
The Government has welcomed a pledge by President George W Bush to reform US immigration laws and resolve the status of illegal aliens, including tens of thousands of Irish workers.
In his State of the Union address last night, Mr Bush called for a "serious, civil, and conclusive debate" on the issue prior to signing comprehensive immigration reform into law.
"We need to resolve the status of the illegal immigrants who are already in our country without animosity and without amnesty," Mr Bush said.
There are an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the US, including more than 20,000 Irish citizens.
In a statement today, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern said he "warmly" welcomed Mr Bush's comments, which he said would "add significant momentum" to the campaign to secure rights for undocumented immigrants in the US.
"Mr Bush has consistently called for a humane and balanced solution to this sensitive issue. His support for the enactment of legislation that would regularise the status of the undocumented is particularly encouraging," Mr Ahern said.
"The Government is determined to continue its active engagement on behalf of our people in the US who remain caught in the shadow of fear and uncertainty," the Minister added.
Mr Ahern said he and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern intended to raise the issue again with Mr Bush and other senior US politicians when they visit the US over the forthcoming St Patrick's Day holiday period.
Fine Gael's emigrant affairs spokesman Paul Connaughton also welcomed Mr Bush's comments, saying his party was committed to continuing lobbying the US political and business community on the issue.
"I believe that in terms of developing a solution for the undocumented Irish who have lived, worked and built a life in the US we have reached an important milestone, but the battle is only really beginning," he said. "The case for the undocumented Irish must be made on the grounds of the contribution that these people are making, each and every day, to the economic well-being of the United States."
Fine Gael and Labour have published a joint policy document entitled Reaching Out: Caring for the Irish Abroad in which they outline measures they would take to help emigrants if elected to government.
© 2007 ireland.com
For a link to the Irish Times article, click here.
A Promise on Immigration Now a Problem for Spitzer
By NINA BERNSTEIN
In his campaign for governor, Eliot Spitzer repeatedly expressed support for the licensing of all New York drivers regardless of their immigration status. Now expectations are running high among those urging the governor to change policies that deny licenses to 250,000 drivers in the state, most because they cannot prove they are legal immigrants.
Yesterday, immigrant advocacy groups met in Albany with David J. Swarts, the new motor vehicles commissioner, to press for new rules. They want the state to accept documents like foreign passports as proof of identity without also requiring a valid yearlong visa or other evidence of legal immigration status, a policy that state motor vehicles offices adopted in 2004.
The groups’ efforts are spurring vigorous opposition from an organization, the Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License, that welcomed the Pataki administration policies as a needed crackdown on license fraud and as the kind of national security measure demanded by the 9/11 attacks. The conflict, and Mr. Spitzer’s history as the attorney general who successfully defended the Pataki licensing policy in court, has put the new governor in an uncomfortable position.
Christine Anderson, the governor’s spokeswoman, tried to dispel the impression created by the clash of advocates that action was imminent.
“It’s not an easy answer at this point,” she said, stressing that no plan was on the table and that no change would be made before “an exhaustive review” of all the security considerations. “There are a lot of factors to review.”
Still, Ms. Anderson confirmed that the governor was committed to seeking a more inclusive licensing system. “It’s something Eliot feels strongly,” she said. “He feels that some of these restrictions may have gone too far, that we need to examine them, taking into consideration all the security concerns, but that we wouldn’t unnecessarily keep people who should have licenses from getting them.”
Last June, an appellate court upheld the policy as a reasonable exercise of discretion by the motor vehicles commissioner. As a legal holding, that means that a reversal of the policy is equally discretionary. But in political terms the ruling — now on appeal itself — offers little cover from criticism by those opposed to letting illegal immigrants renew or obtain driver’s licenses.
Immigrant advocacy groups say the need for a resolution is urgent. Every month, the licenses of about 3,000 more drivers expire and cannot be renewed. Typically, those denied a license are among an estimated 650,000 illegal immigrants in New York and 11 million nationwide, though some legal immigrants also have been affected.
On the other side, Neil Berro, a spokesman for the Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License, said the organization “takes very, very seriously the governor’s comments when he was a candidate” and is mobilizing to prevent any weakening of New York State licensing requirements. The New York-based group, which held a news conference outside City Hall last week, includes some 9/11 families as well as advocates for restricting immigration.
“This is not really an immigration issue, this is an identification question,” Mr. Berro said. “We had massive terrorism in this country, and driver’s licenses were used by terrorists to confuse and cover their tracks.”
Supporters of the license crackdown have cited the need to keep criminals, as well as terrorists, from exploiting weaknesses in the system. Taxi drivers who used multiple driving licenses to hide bad records, con artists, and parents avoiding child support payments were among those who have used fake Social Security numbers that were not verified until the crackdown.
Advocates for immigrants argue that security will be enhanced by a licensing system that not only verifies the Social Security numbers of those who have them, but encourages those who do not have a Social Security card to use a genuine alternative. They said they were encouraged by an hourlong meeting with Commissioner Swarts yesterday.
“It really felt like it was exploratory,” said Amy Sugimori, who is on the steering committee of the Immigrants Rights to a Driver’s License Coalition. “They’re really trying to get up to speed.”
Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, an umbrella group for more than 150 organizations, said ethnic newspapers have been deluged with calls from readers asking how the governor is proposing to fulfill his campaign promise.
“The timetable is important, otherwise people are going to start doubting he was sincere,” she said. “It’s not something that becomes easier with the passage of time.”
Among the complicating factors is the most recent ruling in the 2005 lawsuit brought against the Pataki administration by the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.
“The limitations that plaintiffs would impose on the ability to identify an undocumented alien who is working to promote his family’s financial security would also hinder the detection of an undocumented alien who is working to advance the destructive ends of a terrorist organization,” wrote the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court for the First Department.
“This court is not unsympathetic to the predicament of the otherwise law-abiding undocumented foreign national,” it added. But it concluded, “Plaintiffs’ remedy, if any, lies with Congress, which alone has the power to set immigration policy, to institute a guest worker program or to grant amnesty.”
Another complication is the Real ID Act of 2005, which requires all states to meet a uniform standard of issuing licenses by May 2008, including proof of legal status. No federal regulations have yet implemented the measure, and there is growing concern that it is unworkable.
For a link to the NY Times article click HERE.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
President Bush echoes ILIR's call for comprehensive immigration reform legislation to resolve the status of the undocumented
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Gov. Deval L. Patrick said Thursday that as expected, he had rescinded a new agreement between Massachusetts and federal officials that empowered the state police to arrest illegal immigrants on charges of violating immigration law.
The agreement was announced last month by Mitt Romney, who was then governor and has since opened a campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. Within nine days of the announcement, Mr. Patrick, as the Democratic governor-elect, said he would void the accord on the ground that state troopers already had enough to do enforcing Massachusetts statutes and should not have the added responsibility of dealing with federal law.
Mr. Patrick said doing away with the arrangement negotiated by Mr. Romney would allow state troopers to maintain a focus on gun-, drug- and gang-related crime.
“The wisest and most practical course,” he said, “is for state troopers to focus on enforcing Massachusetts laws.”
The governor was joined at the news conference by the Massachusetts secretary of public safety, Kevin M. Burke, who said state police officials had expressed concern that the increased responsibilities would overburden their officers.
“It would definitely have affected, according to their analysis, their ability to deal with their core mission” of enforcing state law, Mr. Burke said.
There were no arrests under the Romney agreement, since, Mr. Patrick said, the state troopers chosen to carry out the policy had not yet begun a required six-week training course.
At least eight other jurisdictions have already partnered with the federal government in helping enforce immigration law. Arizona and five counties in California and North Carolina have agreements with Washington involving state corrections officers, while Alabama and Florida have arrangements involving the state police.
For the full NY Times article click HERE.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
The event is scheduled for February 10, 2007.
Event entertainment will include Irish Step Dancing; live music from The Wild Rovers, MacGillicuddy Reeks, Enda Keegan, the Pipes and Drums of AOH Divison 1, and a special appearance by Ann Marie Maloney who will perform the national anthems of Ireland and the United States.
The suggested donation is $15.00
DOORS OPEN 6PM
For further information, please visit the events page of the New York AOH by clicking HERE.
Monday, January 08, 2007
A NEW immigration bill that would allow an estimated 50,000 illegal Irish to remain in America while looking for legal residence could become law early next year.
Under current US law, Irish people without the correct papers must return to Ireland in order to seek legal status in the US.
But if a person has lived undocumented in America for more than six months then he or she is automatically barred from the US for three years. And if the undocumented period is more than a year, the ban lasts for a decade.
"It's one of the big issues that I've talked to Senator [Edward] Kennedy about and he's working hard on it," Niall O'Dowd, Chairman of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR), said yesterday.
Democratic Senator Kennedy and Republican Senator John McCain are the two main architects of the new bill that is increasingly expected to be passed by the Senate in March. Living in the US has become increasingly fraught for illegals since the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Returning to Ireland for holidays or funerals and then getting back into the US has become almost impossible.
The ILIR has been lobbying hard to ensure that the bill includes what is effectively a resurrection of a lapsed immigration law that allowed illegals to apply for regular status while remaining in the country.
"At the moment you can be looking at 10 years out of the country before you can re-apply and that's not on," Mr O'Dowd said. "It's one of our biggest issues to fight for.
"And we want to ensure that if there is a visa bill passed that it is easy to implement, that it not something that creates further bureaucratic complications."
With the recent elections giving control of the House of Representatives to the Democrats, there is growing hope among illegal Irish that this is the year for change. "If we don't get immigration reform in 2007, we'll never get it. It's as simple as that," Mr O'Dowd said. "We're pushing very hard. We have a national lobby day on March 7 to which we're going to invite leading Irish politicians to come out for."
If the bill passes both houses, it should land on President George Bush's desk to be signed towards the end of this year. And then Irish politicians will be asked to get to work.
"The Taoiseach has been very, very good on this issue," Mr O'Dowd said. "And at the end of the day whatever bill goes through the Senate and the House and ends up on the President's desk, we will want strong pressure from Dublin to say, 'we think this is a very good step for our citizens'."
The group also has a longer-term plan to reform legal immigration from Ireland to the US. Of 1.2m green cards issued last year by the US, only 2,000 were given to Irish people. "We want it so that there is a situation whereby Irish people can come to America and Americans can go to work in Ireland on an equal basis," Mr O'Dowd said.
For a link to the article, click HERE.
Here's a hint: Congress authorized the wall but didn't pay for it.
Americans were not impressed. Trying to look tough on immigration didn't help the Republicans keep control of Congress. "Nobody believes we really need 700 miles of fence," Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., told the Fort Myers News-Press recently. "But it felt good to do it, so it happened.
"The problem with the debate over immigration is that it's been dominated by show-business politics and feel-good gestures. Nobody in Washington really believes that a partial wall across the border will stop the flow of illegals, or that the 12 million or so illegal immigrants already here will turn around and leave because of an act of Congress.
So this year, perhaps, it is time to get real about immigration. Getting real would include a comprehensive immigration reform that would do several things: Step up border security, get tough on employers who hire illegal immigrants, create an adequate guest-worker program, and give those illegal immigrants who are already here an achievable path to legal status and, eventually, citizenship.
"We need effective immigration enforcement to be sure, but unless it happens within the context of a functioning legal immigration system, it only serves to make a bad situation worse," Frank Sherry, director of the National Immigration Forum, said. "We cannot simply deport our way out of the current immigration mess, nor should we want to.
"Let's commit to making 2007 the turning point," he added. "Let's have [this] year be the moment of truth in which those political leaders committed to leading marginalize those politicians more interested in dividing.
"The good news is that, with the general election behind us, there does appear to be a genuinely bipartisan effort in Congress to devise a realistic immigration reform bill. The bad news is that the "window of opportunity" for reform seems very limited. Contenders for the 2008 elections are already preparing to hit the campaign trail, and when the presidential race begins in earnest this year, the temptation to posture on immigration reform, to revert to show business rather than governance, will become irresistible.
President Bush seems to understand that show business won't solve America's immigration problems. To the extent that he can make common cause with the Democrats to work out a sensible, realistic reform bill, before the political season heats up, America will be better off for it.
For a link to the editorial click HERE.
"This problem [immigration] requires bipartisan solutions, and Democrats are committed to fixing it," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement issued last Thursday after he introduced the top 10 Democratic leadership bills.
By including a comprehensive immigration bill among the new Congress' priorities, Reid was sending a clear signal of the Democratic majority's resolve to tackle a problem that has proven divisive and intractable for years.
"It is good news; this is something that Mayor Bloomberg has been urging Congress to do for a long time," said Guillermo Linares, the city's Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs.
And he added: "A comprehensive reform bill with a path to legalization is something positive for New York, where more than half a million undocumented immigrants live and work."
Yet for all the symbolic value of making immigration reform one of the priorities of the Democratic leadership, and even if Reid's intention is to pass a bill before the end of the year, there is no guarantee it will actually happen. Or if it does, there is no certainty it will be the kind of comprehensive, rational and fair reform bill the country needs.
"We passed a solid immigration bill in the Senate last year. Unfortunately, it fell victim to politics in the House of Representatives," Reid said. "Immigration reform is too vital to our security and our economy to fall by the wayside, so we must deal with it again in 2007."
It won't be easy. For once, Democrats cannot hope to pass an immigration reform bill without the Republicans.
"Our bill will take a comprehensive approach to repairing this broken system," he said. "With tough and smart reforms, to secure our borders, crack down on enforcement, and lay out a path to earned legalization for undocumented immigrants already living here."
Although the rabid anti-immigration crowd in Congress will not fade away without a fight, few dispute the urgency of fixing an immigration system that has become a shameful human rights scandal.
Hundreds of desperately poor people perish at the borders every year, and more and more hardworking families are ripped apart by the repressive policies that pass for immigration reform these days.
The excuse is, of course, national security. Yet, the truth is that those who die at the borders - 460 in 2005, almost 40% more than in 2004 and the highest number since the Border Patrol began counting in 1998 - and those fathers and mothers who are summarily deported have nothing to do with terrorism or with U.S. security.
The failure of the last Congress to act on a comprehensive and fair reform was largely responsible for turning the immigration crisis into the far-reaching human tragedy it is today.
"[Prioritizing immigration] is the right thing to do given that the past Congress could not pass a bill for political reasons," said Chung-Wha Hong, the New York Immigration Coalition executive director. "But I am worried about the content of the bill. We need it to be a good bill, not a watered-down one."
Which is why congressional leadership must work closely with immigrant organizations in shaping meaningful immigration reform legislation.
According to the New York Immigration Coalition, the country needs a law that forges bipartisan consensus around reforms that strengthen families and communities, advance prosperity and enhance security. The new Congress has a real chance of passing such a law. Let's hope they don't miss it.
For link to article, click HERE.
January 8, 2007
BY NADINE ELSIBAI
WASHINGTON -- The new Democratic-controlled Congress is likely to give President Bush the immigration legislation he wants, congressional leaders of both parties said.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Bush expects an ''easier time'' dealing with Democrats on immigration, after his proposal was blocked by House Republicans last year.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said immigration, as well as changes in Social Security, were two of the ''significant'' items of business that are likely to get done.
''Divided government is the only way where you can kind of share the blame for doing big things that will sometimes become controversial,'' McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said on the ''Fox News Sunday'' program.
Divided power works
Hoyer said history has shown divided government can achieve results on major issues such as Social Security. ''We need to do it,'' Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said on the Fox program.
Bush said in his weekly radio address that he is ''confident'' of finding common ground with Democrats, now in control of the House and Senate, during his last two years in office.
The president had sought a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for some of the 11 million illegal workers already in the U.S. That measure stalled in Congress after House Republicans demanded any changes focus on security and border control. He was forced to settle for legislation, which he signed Oct. 26, authorizing construction of 700 miles of fence along the 2,000-mile U.S. border with Mexico.
for a link to the article, click HERE.
Friday, January 05, 2007
Path to legal status
Serious immigration reform has to include a way for many of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants to become legal residents. Critics decry this as amnesty for lawbreakers, but there is no practical way around it. Authorities can't find and deport 12 million people. The Kennedy-McCain bill divided illegal immigrants into three groups based on how long they've been here, with different rules for each. Rep. Zoe Lofgren of San Jose, incoming chair of the House immigration, border security and claims subcommittee, thinks that approach is too complicated.
``We do have to pass something a brain-dead bureaucracy can work with,'' she said. A better strategy would be to sort immigrants based on how much they contribute to the economy and society: length of employment, payment of taxes, special skills and family ties to legal residents. Communities would benefit from offering legal residency to those with the strongest ties and the most to offer.
People who entered the country illegally should face penalties. But deportation -- especially breaking up families -- isn't good for them or for society. Fines would be more effective. To reward those who did follow the rules, that money could be used to clear the backlog of applications from legal immigrants who clearly qualify for permanent residency or citizenship.
For a link to the full editorial, click HERE.
What a difference a year makes!
A new Congress, a Democrat majority and the first woman speaker in the House of Representatives!
This time last year, the anti-immigrant faction had the upper hand in Congress and we were just beginning to mobilise the Irish.
This year, everyone in Congress knows the Irish are in the immigration battle , and, even better, the American voters voted a resounding NO to the anti-immigrant faction.
This could be the year we've been waiting for; the year of comprehensive immigration reform.
On March 7, the ILIR will be going back to Washington to make our case to Congress. Between now and then we will be holding several events in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
The ILIR will be holding a major rally in San Francisco on Thursday Feb 1 at the United Irish Cultural Center 7.30pm (2700 45th Ave @ Sloat).
The Irish Center is right in the middle of the new Speaker Pelosi's district. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take our case right to the door of the most powerful person in the House of Representatives.
Please urge everyone you know who lives near San Francisco to attend.
There are plenty of ILIR meetings and fundraisers for DC taking place in early 2007, so please save the following dates or email email@example.com for detailsSat Jan 13 Yonkers Fundraiser "Culchie of the Year"
Thurs Feb 1 San Francisco Rally
Fri Mar 2 NY Dinner Dance
TBA Boston Dinner Dance
TBA Philadelphia Fundraiser/Meeting
TBA Chicago Fundraiser/Meeting
Weds Mar 7 Washington National Lobby Day
2007 is the year we can make it happen.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
Ring keeps the pressure on for illegal Irish in USTo access a link to the article click HERE.
1/3/2007 - 11:28:17 AM
TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern has given assurances that the Government is committed to securing legal status for the thousands of undocumented Irish in the US. He was responding to a Dáil question from Mayo Deputy Michael Ring who quizzed him on what progress was being made in the campaign.
Mr. Ahern said the Government attached the highest priority to the issue of the undocumented Irish in the United States. He went on: “I continue to raise our concerns in all of my dealings with key figures in the US administration and legislature, including during a wide ranging discussion
which I had with the new US Ambassador on Nov. 1.”“
In the period since the mid-term Congressional elections, I have written to a number of senior US legislators to congratulate them on the outcome of the elections. In doing so, I have taken the opportunity to emphasise again the Government’s deep interest in the issue of the undocumented. Our Ambassador in Washington is also active in highlighting our concerns in his on-going contacts with the incoming Congressional leadership, as are officials of our Consulates across the United States. I was happy to meet again with the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR). ILIR is proving highly effective on Capitol Hill and beyond in communicating the Irish dimension to the documented issue and I have been happy to support it financially. This was the third in a series of meetings that I have had with ILIR since September and it provided a valuable opportunity to review the situation following the mid-term elections.
I will be keeping in close contact with them in the period ahead.” I now look forward to a further intensification of the Government’s efforts on behalf of the undocumented in the period ahead, in particular with key Members of the incoming Congress. Overall, my initial assessment is that the recent elections have given a boost to the prospects for reform, though the issue of comprehensive immigration reform remains difficult and divisive both in Congress and in the United States generally.
“I should emphasise also that I very much welcome the continuing commitment of Senators Kennedy and McCain to the advancement of the comprehensive approach to immigration that they have long promoted and which the Government strongly supports. I also greatly appreciate the recent reiteration by President Bush of his on-going commitment to comprehensive reform in this area. “The Government’s overriding objective continues to be to ensure that our undocumented citizens in the United States can regularise their status, travel freely to and from Ireland and ultimately secure a path to permanent residency.
“The Government’s overriding objective continues to be to ensure that our undocumented citizens in the United States can regularise their status, travel freely to and from Ireland and ultimately secure a path to permanent residency. Despite all the difficulties and challenges, I look forward to further progress on this priority issue for the Government in the coming period.” Deputy Ring said he too had traveled to the US and met with representatives of the Irish community who expressed concern that sufficient pressure was not being put on the US authorities to resolve the undocumented problem.
“This is an issue that is impacting severely on thousands of illegal Irish who cannot come home for family gatherings for fear of being stopped at Shannon and being refused entry to the US. The Taoiseach will have to up the pressure from every quarter so that this is sorted out in the short term,” concluded Deputy Ring.