Monday, April 30, 2007
Today, Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform supporters will visit Laguardia Community College, where an immigration Town Hall is scheduled to be held in the College's Little Theater from 1pm to 3pm.
The meeting will be attended by Congressmen Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Luis Guttierez (D-IL), among others.
DIRECTIONS TO LAGUARDIA COMMUNITY COLLEGE
TUESDAY, MAY 1st
Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform supporters in New York will attend an evening candlelight prayer vigil for immigration reform at St. Peter's Church, 91 Ludlow Street in Yonkers, New York. The prayer vigil begins at 7:00pm. Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform supporters who plan to attend are asked to wear their "LEGALIZE THE IRISH" tee shirts.
GOOGLE MAP - ST. PETER'S CHURCH IN YONKERS, NY
WEDNESDAY, MAY 2nd
Congressman Richard E. Neal hosts Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform briefing on immigration reform
Congressman Richard E. Neal, Chairman of the Friends of Ireland bipartisan Congressional organization, will host, with Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform leaders, a briefing for Friends of Ireland members on prospects for comprehensive immigration reform in the 110th Congress.
Niall O'Dowd (Chairman), Ciaran Stuanton (Vice Chairman) and Kelly Fincham (Executive Director) will represent the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform at the briefing.
NATIONAL CALL-IN DAYS
TUESDAY, WEDNESDAY & THURSDAY May 1-3
Call your Senators and urge them to move quickly to get real comprehensive immigration reform now. The country needs action!
Keep the momentum for immigration reform surging ahead - call this number and follow the
instructions to connect to the offices of your Senators: 1-800-417-7666.
Call between 9:00am and 5:00pm Eastern time to have a better chance of connecting with the Senate offices.
By Karoun Demirjian -- Washington Bureau -- April 30, 2007
WASHINGTON -- Lawmakers who back immigration reform, recognizing that their chances are dwindling rapidly, are girding for a last-ditch attempt to pass a sweeping bill before their efforts are swallowed up by an early campaign season and an acrimonious political mood.
An unusual bipartisan group of senators hopes to present this week the outlines of an immigration plan designed to win crucial support from conservatives. If they succeed, President Bush is expected to throw his support behind the plan, which could be his final chance for a major domestic accomplishment in his second term.
This effort comes against the backdrop of expected mass marches and demonstrations supporting immigration rights on Tuesday in major cities, including Chicago.
The group of senators discussing the reform plan includes everyone from conservative Southwesterners such as Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) to liberal New Englanders like Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). The group includes presidential candidate John McCain (R-Ariz.), who wrote an immigration bill last year with Kennedy.
"We've made tremendous progress, and there's a real hope to get to a bill of significance," said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), a participant in the talks.
If that hope is realized, the Senate would likely vote on the bill by the end of May.
READ FULL CHICAGO TRIBUNE ARTICLE
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Mr. Bush gave the commencement address at Miami Dade College, where more than half of the students were raised speaking a language other than English.
He gave the Class of 2007 an assignment: Tell their elected representatives in Washington to get going on immigration overhaul.
"You see every day the values of hard work and family and faith that immigrants bring," the president said.
"This experience gives you a special responsibility to make your voices heard."
The takeover of Congress by Democrats was supposed to be a boon to Mr. Bush's goal of a comprehensive immigration overhaul.
He wants to establish a temporary-worker program for some illegal aliens and to create a path to citizenship -- though a difficult one -- for many.
It was Mr. Bush's fellow Republicans who stymied his plans when they controlled Capitol Hill, saying his proposal was too lenient toward lawbreakers. But the Democrats' ascendance in January has not necessarily made the search for comprehensive reform easier.
The Senate passed a plan in May that tracked closely with Mr. Bush's wishes. The proposal died in the House, where tough new border-security measures were the priority. A bill authorizing 800 additional miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border was Congress' only accomplishment on immigration.
Since then, the White House has highlighted the effectiveness of stepped-up border enforcement while quietly seeking compromise on broader legislation.
So far, however, the only approach that has grown out of those initial talks would be tougher on illegal aliens than the Senate bill. Its path to citizenship would require fines, trips back home, long waits and hefty penalties.
Some conservatives still call this overly permissive. The president was hoping to give a lift to those efforts with the commencement address in Miami and also by devoting his weekly radio address yesterday to the topic.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, applauded the renewed attention from Mr. Bush. "Only a bipartisan bill will become law, and we are prepared to work with the president and our Republican colleagues to get the job done and get it done right," said Mr. Kennedy, a leader for his party on the issue.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
By Holly Rosenkrantz and Nadine Elsibai
April 28 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush said he is gaining new support for immigration overhaul as his administration works with lawmakers in both political parties to try to tackle the issue this year.
``I am pleased that some of those who had doubts about comprehensive reform last year are now open to supporting it,'' Bush said in his weekly radio address, without naming who his new supporters are. ``There is a desire on the part of Republicans and Democrats alike to get this problem solved.''
Bush said he wants a ``comprehensive'' approach to immigration that would secure America's borders, create a temporary worker program, foster assimilation and resolve the status of illegal immigrants already in the U.S.
Immigration presents Bush and the Democratic Congress an opportunity for bipartisan cooperation at a time when they are at loggerheads on an array of issues, including the Iraq war and the investigation into the firings of eight U.S. attorneys.
Republicans in the House blocked his attempt last year to change the law and instead forced through legislation to extend border barriers and boost enforcement. Opponents of his immigration plan have said they haven't softened their stance regarding the guest worker proposal and citizenship.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, has said he will use the last two weeks of May for a Senate debate on immigration. House Democrats are likely to consider the issue before their August recess.
Seventy-eight percent of Americans polled in a survey said they believe illegal immigrations living in the U.S. should be allowed to pursue citizenship, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted April 13-15.
"In Washington, we are in the midst of an important discussion about immigration. Our current immigration system is in need of reform. We need a system where our laws are respected. We need a system that meets the legitimate needs of our economy. And we need a system that treats people with dignity and helps newcomers assimilate into our society.
"We must address all elements of this problem together, or none of them will be solved at all. And we must do it in a way that learns from the mistakes that caused previous reforms to fail. So I support comprehensive immigration reform that will allow us to secure our borders and enforce our laws, keep us competitive in the global economy, and resolve the status of those already here -- without amnesty, and without animosity.
"I know convictions run deep on the matter of immigration. Yet I am confident we can have a serious, civil, and conclusive debate. My Administration is working closely with Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle. We are addressing our differences in good faith, and we are working to build consensus. And I am pleased that some of those who had doubts about comprehensive reform last year are now open to supporting it.
"There is a desire on the part of Republicans and Democrats alike to get this problem solved. And by working together, we can enact comprehensive immigration reform this year.
"Our nation deserves an immigration system that secures our borders and honors our proud history as a nation of immigrants. By working together, we will enforce our laws and ensure that America forever remains a land of opportunity and a great hope on the horizon.
Thank you for listening.''
LISTEN TO PRESIDENT'S RADIO ADDRESS
Bush Presses Congress on Immigration
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 1:03 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush urged lawmakers on Saturday to come together on the complex and emotional issue of immigration, calling it ''a critical challenge'' now before the nation.
''We need a system where our laws are respected. We need a system that meets the legitimate needs of our economy. And we need a system that treats people with dignity and helps newcomers assimilate into our society,'' he said in his weekly radio address. ''We must address all elements of this problem together, or none of them will be solved at all.''
There are an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the country, and passions run high on what to do about them. Bush wants to establish a temporary worker program for some of them and create a path to citizenship -- albeit a difficult one -- for many. He says it is unrealistic to propose that millions of people be deported.
What he likes to call comprehensive immigration reform was once Bush's top domestic priority.
But the president was stymied by members of his own party, who controlled Congress until January. While business and industry are demanding more low-wage workers, many conservatives reject the president's approach as putting the interests of illegal immigrants before those of American workers.
The Senate passed a plan last May that would allow illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship and create a temporary guest worker program for new arrivals. But the proposal died in the House, where tough new border security measures were the priority.
Last October, Bush signed a get-tough bill that authorized 700 additional miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Since then, the White House has been emphasizing that new efforts along the border are having an impact, while quietly looking for bipartisan compromise on broader legislation. Bush says he is determined to enact something -- and it is one the few issues on which he might be able to claim victory with Congress in Democratic hands.
He gave that effort a renewed push by devoting his radio address to the topic, and making it the subject as well of a commencement speech he was giving Saturday afternoon at Miami Dade College in Florida.
Bush said the talks are bearing fruit, persuading some who had doubts about comprehensive reform to now be open to it.
''I know convictions run deep on the matter of immigration. Yet I am confident we can have a serious, civil and conclusive debate,'' the president said. ''Our nation deserves an immigration system that secures our borders and honors our proud history as a nation of immigrants.''
One approach that grew out of the initial talks between the White House and Capitol Hill would still give illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, although it would be much tougher than a Senate-approved measure. The new approach would require fines, trips back home, long waits and hefty penalties. Conservatives still called it overly permissive, essentially amnesty for illegal behavior.
Most national polls show Americans are overwhelmingly supportive of an immigration overhaul that would allow those here illegally to stay, work and earn their way to legal status.
Friday, April 27, 2007
MEMBERS of Letterkenny Town Council have added their support for the undocumented Irish in America. The Council has agreed to write to the American Embassy in Dublin expressing their support for the overhaul of US Immigration Policy.
At Monday night's Town Council meeting Councillor Gerry McMonagle proposed the motion which received the unanimous support of his council colleagues. Cllr McMonagle said with over 50,000 undocumented Irish in America 'it was a massive issue'.
Over 1,000 Donegal people took part in a rally in Dublin at the weekend to highlight the plight of undocumented family members in the US, he said.
"I think it is vital that as a council we are seen to be supporting their cause. These people are paying their taxes and contributing to the American economy yet they are always looking around their shoulder for fear of being deported. They can't attend funerals and at the weekend we heard of one man who was 18 years in the US when he was deported while travelling to his work one day," he said.
"These people are helping to build and maintain the American economy and we must do all we can to support the Irish lobby for Immigration Reform," Cllr McMonagle added.
Cllr Dessie Larkin said the Donegal Association in New York was fully behind the lobby for reform and said as a local authority the council could make its support known through the American Embassy.
"There are thousands of undocumented Donegal people in cities like New York, Boston and Philadelphia and they live in fear every day of being deported. They're paying their taxes and contribute massively to the economy and are not on social welfare. We've all heard the stories about their inability to return home," he said.
READ AT DONEGAL NEWS WEBSITE
Cllr O'Domnhaill said: "Some undocumented Irish people resident in the US are unable to travel home to visit their families, to renew a driving licence or benefit from the medical services under new measures introduced last year. This is extremely difficult and stressful for our emigrants.
"It is important that the Government continue to attach the highest priority to their efforts on behalf of the undocumented."
TUESDAY, WEDNESDAY & THURSDAY May 1-3
Call your Senators and urge them to move quickly to get real comprehensive immigration reform now. The country needs action!
Keep the momentum for immigration reform surging ahead - call this number and follow the instructions to connect to the offices of your Senators:
Call between 9:00am and 5:00pm Eastern time to have a better chance of connecting with the Senate offices.
When you call, you will hear a recording
1) The system will scan your phone number (or ask you to enter it) to verify your Senators.
2) The system will ask which Senator you would like to be connected to.
3) Before connecting, you will hear a brief message about immigration reform to deliver.
4) After the message, you will be connected to your Senator.
5) After you are done, be sure to call again and connect to your other Senator's office.
Tell your Senators:
ACT NOW IN FAVOR OF COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM!
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Kennedy needs GOP partner in reform push
By Ray O'Hanlon
Senator Solo needs a pal. With Senator Edward Kennedy's alliance with John McCain on the immigration reform issue having more than a whiff of mothballs about itself lately, Kennedy is in need of a new Republican partner to share the heavy lifting as the reform debate yet again faces a crunch time.
Reform boosters, not least Kennedy himself, have repeatedly made the point that if a comprehensive reform bill is to succeed it must do so as a result of bipartisan support in both the Senate and House of Representatives. This if for no other reason than there is certain to be equally bipartisan opposition ranging from passive to virulent.
"Only a bipartisan bill will become law. There is a lot of common ground, especially in the need to strengthen our borders and enforce our laws, though important differences remain to be resolved," Kennedy said in reaction to President Bush's recent immigration speech, delivered at the border with Mexico in Yuma, Arizona
"Now what is needed is a good faith effort by all concerned to forge the right kind of compromise that honors our commitment to our security, our commitment to families, and our commitment to our humanity," he said.
READ FULL ARTICLE AT IRISH ECHO WEBSITE
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Congressmen Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Luis Guttierez (D-IL), among others, are scheduled to attend the event.
DIRECTIONS TO LAGUARDIA COMMUNITY COLLEGE
The American People Want Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Washington, DC – Interest in passing comprehensive immigration reform among all voters has increased since last year, and voters are poised to reward lawmakers who support such reforms. These are among the findings of a new nationwide poll conducted by Democratic polling firm Lake Research Partners and Republican polling firm The Tarrance Group on behalf of the National Immigration Forum and the Manhattan Institute, released today in Washington.
“There is a dramatic surge in interest in Congress resolving the immigration issue this year across all categories of voters,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum. “Voters are clearly laying this issue at the feet of Congress and will not accept gridlock or partisan bickering. Doing nothing is not an option.”
75% support comprehensive immigration reform
Fully three-quarters (75%) of American voters support a comprehensive immigration reform proposal that contains the following elements:
· Greatly enhanced border security;
· Much tougher penalties on employers who hire illegally;
· Allowing more foreign workers to come legally to work on a temporary basis;
· Creating a system in which currently undocumented workers can come forward and register with the government, pay a fine, and receive temporary legal work status;
· Allowing temporary workers a multi-step, multi-year process to earn citizenship if they get to the end of the line and satisfy certain criteria such as remaining crime free, learning English, and paying taxes.
The poll found just 17% opposed to such a plan. That compares to 71% support and 23% opposition when this same plan was presented to voters in a July 2006 poll by the same pollsters.
This level of support is observed across all categories of voters: white (75%), African-American (70%), Hispanic (74%), strong Republican (76%), strong Democrat (74%), voters in swing congressional districts (72%), very conservative (75%), liberal (75%), white conservative Christians (78%), born again Christians (78%), voters who attend church weekly (76%), seniors (73%), and daily listeners of talk-radio (76%), for example.
Voters want action
“This is an issue in which voters are clearly out in front of their elected leaders,” Sharry said. “Many members of Congress worry about the ‘A’ word or being challenged in a primary by some hothead spewing sound bites. When are they going to get that the American people are sending a loud and clear message to fix it, do it now, and get it right? It seems that some in Congress are hoping this issue will just go away. But it isn’t going away until elected policy makers in both parties respond to the public demand for a solution.”
The pollsters over-sampled voters in key congressional districts, including the 60 districts that voted for Bush in 2004 but voted for a Democrat in 2006, which many see as the key battlegrounds that will determine the contest for Congress in 2008. The support for the proposal was consistently high and desire for action by Congress consistently intense. Voters in two congressional districts where immigration was a central campaign issue and which were won by freshmen Representatives in 2006, Illinois-06 and Arizona-05, showed solid and similar support for the proposal.
In head to head, comprehensive reform trounces “attrition”
Voters were given a choice between comprehensive reform with a path to citizenship and what opponents of comprehensive reform call “attrition.” Here’s how it was described in the poll:
“Some people say that we don't need to offer illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, that's amnesty & rewarding them for breaking our laws. By enforcing the law more strictly, it will become so hard to live & work here that they will go back where they came from.”
Only 26% choose this option. A robust 65% support comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship.
“The opponents of immigration reform are pitching what they call ‘attrition’ but the voters aren’t buying it,” Sharry said. “People want change, not more of the same. Voters want substantive solutions, not simplistic slogans.”
· The Power-Point presentation of the poll findings is here.
· A summary of recent polls on immigration by the media and others is here.
· The Forum’s public opinion web page is here.
· An MP3 audio recording of a tele-press conference held Wednesday, April 25, 2007 at 2:00 p.m. will be posted on the Forum’s website within 24 hours. Participating were Frank Sharry, Tamar Jacoby (Manhattan Institute), David Mermin (Lake Research Partners), and Brian Nienaber (The Tarrance Group).
# # #
MORE THAN 1,500 people packed into Jurys Ballsbridge on Saturday, April 14 in support of their family and friends who are living illegally in the US.
The meeting had been organised by the New York-based Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform.
Executive Director Kelly Fincham said that they were delighted with the turnout. “The sheer size of the crowd really sends a strong message that Ireland has not turned its back on the undocumented Irish in the US.”
Several top politicians also attended the meeting; Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, and the new Deputy Minister in the North, Martin McGuinness spoke in support of the efforts to gain legal status for the Irish undocumented.
Mayo Deputy Michael Ring, who has raised the matter in the Dail on numerous occasions was also in attendance.
“It was important to have this rally in Ireland as we want to keep the campaign to the forefront for the General Election. I would be saying to people who have family living illegally in the United States to raise the matter with the candidates when they visit their homes. We need support from all political parties if we are to make a difference on this issue. It is vitally important that we do not forget our emigrants in America.”
It was the presence of the family members and their stories of separation which really drove the day’s events in Dublin.
One woman, Sheila Murphy, whose two children are both in Boston for the past 15 years, said it was the first time she had felt Irish people cared about their plight. “It’s been so tough the past few years because it was almost as if Ireland had turned its back on our own. I hated telling people that my son and daughter were in America because of some people’s attitude. Today has been magnificent. I feel much less alone.”
Dublin father, Dave Meade, described his frustration with critics who believe the undocumented Irish should just return home.
“They don’t understand what our children are going through,” he said. “America is their home now, so how can they just pack up and leave?”
“My daughter would happily pay fines to try and change her status. She’s already paying taxes. All she wants is a way to come out of the shadows and live a normal life.”
Donegal father Micheal McMahon told the packed hall that his son Micheal had been in the US for 14 years. “He is married to a lovely Irish woman, they have great children, who are also US citizens, and yet they can’t bring their children back to Ireland to visit us. We have to go to America to visit them. But some parents are getting older and the travelling to see their children and grandchildren is hard.”
The hall was dominated by a picture of two American children, Lily and Daniel, whose parents are unable to bring them back to Ireland.
The children’s aunt was in the audience and she said it was heartbreaking to see the pictures of the two children. “They’re so close, and yet so far,” she said.
READ REPORT AT WESTERN PEOPLE WEBSITE
National security is most effectively enhanced by improving the mechanisms for identifying real terrorists, not by implementing harsher immigration laws or treating all foreigners as potential threats. Policies and practices that fail to properly distinguish between real terrorists and legitimate foreign travelers, guest workers, and harmless immigrants are ineffective, waste limited resources, damage the U.S. economy, and foster a false sense of security. We will not be truly secure unless and until we know who is already here and who is trying to come here.
Continuing to do nothing but enforce our current laws will lead to more dysfunction and less practical enforcement. The key to reform is dealing intelligently and realistically with the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants now living and working in the United States. Many of these people are the relatives of U.S. citizens and legal residents or workers holding jobs that Americans do not want.
People already here who are no threat to our security -- but who work hard, pay taxes, and are learning English -- should be allowed to earn permanent residence. That's not amnesty. These people are not the problem, but rather a symptom of a broken immigration system. Including them in reform would tell our government who is here.
READ FULL EDITORIAL HERE
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
The stands of these 2008 Republican presidential candidates on immigration.
Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas
Where he stands:
Voted for 2006 bill offering legal status to illegal immigrants subject to conditions, including English proficiency and payment of back taxes and fines. Voted for border fence.
What he's said: "I think you need the comprehensive reform, and you need enforcement, and you need to make the system simpler and allow more people in legally, to get people into a legal instead of an illegal system." - Interview with The Associated Press, April 12.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani
Where he stands:
Open to conferring legal status if proficiency in English is among conditions.
What he's said:
"They would have to have tamper-resistant cards. They would have to be identified. We'd have to be sure they are people who have a lawful background.
"Then we'd be able to collect taxes from them, so they wouldn't be using our services without paying for them. And then that database could be used for, ultimately, if you want to deal with the people that are already here.
"But they should never be put ahead of the people who are here already. Anybody that gets in to a database like that should have to be at the end of the line rather than at the front of the line. They should have to pay penalties." - FlashReport political news Web site, March 26.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee
Where he stands:
Favors allowing illegal aliens in the country to apply for legal status if they pay penalties, get guest worker permits, register with authorities and aren't allowed to jump in line ahead of other applicants. As governor, opposed banning state services for illegal immigrants.
What he's said:
"There must be consequences for illegal actions for violation of our rule of law. I propose that such individuals should be required to register with state and federal authorities, receive guest worker permits, pay financial penalties and be given the choice of deportation or undertaking the process of lawful citizenship that does not allow them to cut in front of the line." - Statement issued by campaign April 10.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona
Where he stands:
Sponsored 2006 bill allowing illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S., work and apply to become legal residents after learning English, paying fines and back taxes and clearing a background check.
What he's said:
"While strengthening border security is an essential component of national security, it must also be accompanied by immigration reforms. We have seen time and again that as long as there are jobs available in this country for people who live in poverty and hopelessness in other countries, those people will risk their lives to cross our borders - no matter how formidable the barriers - and most will be successful." - Press release issued March 30, 2006.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Congressman Joe Crowley to appear at Immigration TownHall at Laguardia Community College on Monday April 30, 2007
Congressmen Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Luis Guttierez (D-IL) and other dignitaries will appear for the event.
DIRECTIONS TO LAGUARDIA COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Progress on Immigration
Two important words to remember in the immigration debate in Congress are “triggers” and “touchback.” During last year’s ill-fated wrangling, the terms made the supporters of comprehensive reform bristle. The first refers to tough border-security benchmarks that the nation would have to meet before other parts of reform would kick in. The second refers to the requirement that illegal immigrants leave the country — even if only touching down briefly over the border — before re-entering on a legal footing.
Opponents of both concepts saw them as ways to sabotage a good bill. Triggers were seen as a way to start right away on the popular fence-building and other border-sealing measures sought by Republicans while delaying, possibly forever, the more humane elements of reform: a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and temporary visas for new workers. The touchback provision was seen as just another unnecessary hurdle for immigrants, proposed to satisfy hard-liners.
The good news is that in this year’s debate, triggers and touchback have become potential areas of compromise. It remains true that maliciously devised triggers can be too onerous, but as The Wall Street Journal reported, Democrats are now saying that they are open to well-written trigger provisions, since that could give a bill broader support among Republicans. Reassuring Americans that border security is improving is reasonable, as long as achieving the benchmarks is not the sole and ultimate aim. Republican leaders, to their credit, have backed away from the narrow, enforcement-only approach that disgraced their efforts last year.
Triggers and touchback have already been conceded by the supporters of comprehensive reform; a bill in the House, the Strive Act, sponsored by Representatives Jeff Flake and Luis Gutierrez, would require immigrants to leave the country and return within a six-year span. It’s not ideal, but if a touchback provision is manageable and reassures people that illegal immigrants are indeed going to the back of the line, then it will be defensible.
The possible breaking of the stalemate was only part of the good news in recent days. The other part came in the form of research showing Americans way ahead of the hard right on immigration reform. The USA Today/Gallup poll found that 78 percent favored earned citizenship.
If passion and conviction were all it took to make good legislation, this problem would have been solved long ago. But progress on an issue this difficult requires hard compromises. With the 2008 presidential election barreling up like a semi — objects in mirror are closer than they appear — time pressures have focused people’s attention. Difficult details still need to be worked out, such as whether illegal workers will have to wait years for the current immigration backlog to clear before getting on a citizenship path, and whether family members will be excluded. But the outlines of a bipartisan deal are becoming clearer.
READ AT NY TIMES WEBSITE
United States of America - Dermot is an Irish businessman in New York. The 36-year-old runs a construction company and employs five workers. Dermot, his wife Eileen, their five-year-old son Brian and two cats, live on the first floor of a three-story multi-family-house in Yonkers, a city located two miles north of Manhattan.
At first sight, they seem like an ordinary happy, peaceful family. But there is something that few would think of when talking to an English native speaker in the US – Dermot and Eileen are irregular migrants. Their son Brian was born in the US and is thus automatically an American citizen.
“I didn’t think of myself as an irregular migrant until my driver’s license expired in April of 2006,” says Dermot.
After 9/11, a Social Security Number is required to acquire or renew a driver’s license. In the State of New York, a driver’s license is used as proof of identification since that state does not issue identity cards. A drivers’ license is sufficient identification to open a bank account, rent an apartment and establish utility services. For irregular migrants, the loss of a driver’s license has been the most important and life-changing event change after 9/11.
Dermot is now forced to drive without a license to visit his customers, like all of his employees who are irregular migrants from Latin America. Dermot completed high school in Ireland and although he did not continue any formal education, he taught himself how to lay tiles and do electrical work.
Four years ago, when his former boss announced he was going back to Ireland, Dermot took over the construction business. He applied for and received a tax number and a business license. And he pays his taxes like every American, but as an irregular migrant he does not have access to all the benefits of a citizen or a permanent resident.
When Eileen was pregnant she worried about the day of her son’s birth. “When we went to the emergency room I was scared that they might ask for some sort of document that I could not provide,” Eileen remembers. At the hospital she showed her bank account to prove that she would be able to pay for the medical expenses without insurance, and was admitted.
In the US, irregular migrants receive medical treatment in case of an emergency; childbirth is considered an emergency. Little Brian received full health care for one year. Dermot and his wife cannot buy private health insurance because they have no documents, but they decided to buy health insurance for Brian and pay USD 20 per month.
“At the very least, I want my son to be covered,” says Dermot. Brian has one big wish: “I want to play with my cousins and my grandparents.” But even though he could travel freely all over the world, his parents do not want to accompany him. If they leave the US, they will be banned from reentry for ten years. This practice has been in place for decades but wasn’t entirely enforced until increased security concerns following 9/11.
“Brian knows his grandparents only over the telephone,” says Eileen. “They would love to see him, but they are too old to travel overseas.” Even though they speak to relatives in Ireland every week over the telephone and the Internet, the ties loosen, but Dermot and Eileen are scared to go back.
“People say it’s hard to fit into a society after being away for so long,” Eileen worries. They say Ireland has changed tremendously since they left 11 years ago. At that time, Dermot and most of his friends were unemployed and living off the dole. But in recent years Ireland’s economy has boomed. Now, Eastern European migrants flock to the “Celtic Tiger” to try their luck.
A recent IOM report, “Managing Migration in Ireland: A Social and Economic Analysis”, compiled on behalf of Ireland’s National Economic and Social Council, confirms that although Ireland was traditionally a country of emigration, it has become a country of immigration in less than 10 years. The report found that migrants helped increase economic growth, eased labor market shortages, improved output and contributed to reducing earnings inequality.
Between April 2004 and April 2005, Ireland recorded its highest level of immigration – 70,000 persons, and the lowest level of emigration –16,600 since current records began. This net migration made Ireland the country most affected by migration in relation to size than any other European Union member state since the EU enlargement of May 2004.
Notwithstanding the economic boom in their home country, Dermot and Eileen would do almost anything to stay in the US. So they joined the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR), an advocacy group that meets every Wednesday in New York City.
Mary Brennan organizes the weekly meetings. “We write letters to senators and congressmen, and we’ve held rallies in San Francisco and Washington, DC,” she says. The last rally took place in March 2007 in a hotel on Capitol Hill, with several senators present, among them Hillary Rodham Clinton and Edward Kennedy. As the 3,000 Irish assembled in front of the US Capitol wearing green and white T-shirts emblazoned with the message “Legalize the Irish.org” many passers-by thought it was a joke.
“Illegal Irish in America? That’s funny.”
The Irish are well-liked in the US because many Americans are able to trace back their roots to Irish immigrants. St. Patrick’s Day is an important part of the American cultural heritage, and every year parades take place in large cities to celebrate this Irish tradition. In the second half of the 19th century, hundreds of thousands of Irish fleeing crop failures and famine migrated to the US. And in late 20th Century the Irish continued to migrate to the US.
“It was a tradition for many years for Irish to come to the United States to work when they were young,” says Neil O’Dowd, founder of ILIR.
“We estimate there are about 50,000 illegal Irish in the US.” In recent years, migration in the opposite direction has begun: As the economy improves, Ireland becomes a more attractive destination for young Americans. Diana Pardue, Chief of Museum Services at Ellis Island, noticed that in recent years an increasing number of Americans are asking for copies of their Irish ancestors’ passports which the families had donated to the museum.
“They need them to apply for Irish citizenship,” she explains. Anyone who can prove that at least one of their grandparents or great-grandparents was Irish is eligible to apply for Irish citizenship. This is attractive for Americans of Irish descent for many reasons; one of them is that Irish citizens are allowed to live and work in all 27 countries of the European Union.
Mary Brennan knows for sure that she would never build a life in the underground again: “Last year one of my little brothers, who is still in college, came to visit me. He wanted to stay but I urged him not to. I’m glad he went back to Ireland.”
Silke Oppermann is a freelance journalist who reports for Deutsche Welle Radio, ARD Radio affiliates, and other media outlets.
Friday, April 20, 2007
Undocumented Irish living in the US number 50,000. They are invisible to all intents and purposes, and for some Irish parents, who have more than one child who has gone to settle down in America illegally and without a visa, it is difficult to take.
The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) gathered over 1,500 people at the weekend in Jury's Ballbridge Hotel, Dublin, as a symbol of support to stay in America without living with the fear of being deported.
Friends and family of illegal immigrants in the US, as well as TDs and representatives from all the Irish political parties showed up.
Chairman of the ILIR, Niall O'Dowd said that there was a “50/50” chance that the bill would be passed. He said:
"There is a lot going on and there is a lot more going on behind the scenes… I will make that promise today, we are going to win this one and you're going to help us win it."
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, TD, told the meeting that the Government in a gesture of support would be providing an extra $50,000 (€36,897) to the ILIR for the cause.
Said Ahern, "As a nation we can't turn our backs on the undocumented Irish living in a twilight world. I have heard their sad stories at first hand on my many visits to the US.
"And I hear tales of loneliness and separation from their siblings, parents and loved ones. We must do all we can to reunite these families."
READ AT THE IRISH WORLD WEBSITE
Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) – A workable comprehensive immigration reform bill on the table, more sympathetic leadership in Congress and a "this year or maybe never" incentive are prodding immigration advocates to action.
After a day and a half of briefings and strategizing with advocates who work on immigration every day, activists from more than 66 dioceses took their campaign for immigration reform to Capitol Hill April 19.
"It is terrifying, the prospect of a bad bill or no bill happening, considering the number of people who are involved in this," said Frank Sharry, director of the National Immigration Forum. Sharry was keynote speaker for the April 17-19 Justice for Immigrants national gathering organized by the U.S. Catholic bishops' migration awareness campaign of the same name.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said he plans to bring immigration legislation to the floor for debate and a vote the last two weeks of May.
As of mid-April, there was no Senate legislation in the mix, but a House bill, H.R. 1645, had the backing – at least as a starting point – of many in a vast coalition of business, agriculture, union, civil rights, ethnic and religious organizations.
It is called the Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy Act, or STRIVE Act.
At an April 18 session of the national gathering, Sharry was optimistic about getting an immigration reform bill signed into law this congressional session. He said the turning point in the debate about how to tackle immigration problems was the passage last year of a House bill packed with strict enforcement measures and little to deal with problems such as the demand for workers that cannot be filled by existing visa allotments.
When that bill and a more comprehensive Senate version could not be reconciled and neither became law, Sharry said, the American people got fed up with both the current state of immigration problems and with congressional inaction.
The House bill contained several problematic provisions, including one that would have criminalized the act of providing help to illegal immigrants. Anger at the prospect of that bill becoming law galvanized hundreds of thousands of people to join rallies and marches around the country last spring...
A USA Today/Gallup Poll conducted in mid-April found 78 percent of a random sampling of Americans favor giving illegal immigrants a pathway to legal status and citizenship.
An assortment of polls over the last six months showed between 57 percent and 65 percent of people nationwide and 83 percent of Californians favor providing a path to legalization. California has been at the forefront of immigration problems and activism...
READ FULL REPORT AT CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
Thursday, April 19, 2007
A MAYO man is playing a leading role in the campaign to bring about immigration reform which would lead to a whole new life for an estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish in America.
Ciaran Staunton, whose mother Teresa resides in Knappagh, Westport, has been to the forefront of the campaign which has organised three triumphant lobby days in the marble halls of the US Congress.
Ciaran is one of a family of nine – eight sons (Aidan, Joseph, Fintan, Noel, Gabriel, Ciaran, Pearse and Declan) and a daughter (Loretto) born to Teresa and the late Tommy Andy Staunton. The family resided in Thallabawn, Killadoon, before moving to Knappagh in the late 1960s.
Ciaran is married to Orlaith O’Dowd from Co Louth whose brother Niall O’Dowd edits the Irish Voice newspaper in New York as well as being publisher of the monthly Irish America magazine.
READ FULL REPORT AT THE MAYO NEWS
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
WASHINGTON, April 18 (UPI) -- Conservatives in the U.S. Senate are being assured that key border security provisions will be put in place if they agree to revisit an immigration overhaul.
The Bush administration and Senate Democrats hope to jump-start comprehensive immigration reform talks with a two-step approach, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
The first step would assure wary conservatives that key border security provisions will be put in place. The next step would include guest-worker programs or adjusting the status of the millions of illegal immigrants who live in the United States.
The Senate defeated a similar proposal last year.
'It`s been tough going,' said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
'I still say it`s 50-50. But last year, people were talking about what divided them. Now, we`re talking about how to solve the problem.'
•"Insure the federal government provides for U.S. security 'by controlling and securing our borders';
•"Enforce immigration laws, including oversight of the hiring practices of private employers;
•"Deal judiciously and 'realistically' with those in the country illegally; and,
•"Allow the people of God to act 'redemptively,' reaching out to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of all immigrants as they work toward an earned pathway of 'legal status and/or citizenship.'"
The phrase "comprehensive legislation," Land says in his commentary, "is not code for amnesty, no matter what my critics contend. Amnesty is wiping a transgressor's record clean—it is a free ride."
To require illegal immigrants to become proficient in English, pay fines and back taxes, undergo a criminal check and wait behind legal immigrants in an effort to seek citizenship after a lengthy probation is hardly amnesty, he says.
READ FULL REPORT
Fermanagh Councillors, Bernice Swift and Stephen Hugget were among 1,500 people who travelled to Jury's Inn, Dublin on Saturday to show support and solidarity for the campaign being conducted by the group, the 'Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform' for the undocumented Irish in the USA. The seminar was chaired by Neil ODowd, of the ''Irish Voice' newspaper, Ciaran Staunton (ILIR)and invited panel members.
These included the Irish Minister For Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, the Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny Leader,Martin Mc Guinness, Deputy First Minister Designate & PJ Bradley SDLP).
Cllr Swift explained that the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform ILIR was established to ensure there was an Irish voice in the upcoming immigration debate in the US.
"This debate", she went on, "affects some 11 million undocumented people living in the US, 50,000 of whom are Irish. Within that number, we all have friends, and family members who are living and working in the U.S.A..
"Therefore, we are all too aware of their plight and associated factors of being undocumented".
The actual debate on immigration reform is taking place this Spring, while a Bill introduced recently by Kennedy-McCain, is supported by Neil ODowd and the lobby group.
"They will be pressing members of Congress to move on legislation this year", Ms Swift added.
During the seminar we sat with a number of family members from Fermanagh, including, the Rooneys from Killesher, the Murrays, from Derrylin and the Mulligan family from Donagh, all who have sons and a daughter working and living in Queens and The Bronx".
She revealed that she and Stephen Huggett had also met with many other families and heard some heart-breaking stories associated with being undocumented , namely no freedom to fly home for a close family member's funeral, and how one person had to listen to the funeral of her brother down a phone line?
"Happy occasions, such as a brother or sister's wedding, people couldn't attend due to fear of being stopped at Immigration and deported back to Ireland and leave behind the life embarked on in the US? Not to mention Christmas/Birthdays/Christenings?
"The anxiety is felt both home and abroad. Another story was of one young woman who was arrested, uniformed, interrogated, detained, chained, all in a death-row-like experience".
She urged everyone with an interest in supporting the undocumented Irish to help families from all over County Fermanagh affected by this debate and for them to visit the website www.legalizetheirish.org
"Sign your support, thus ensuring the Irish voice is heard on Capitol Hill and help put an end to, 'No Irish Need Apply?!
VIEW FERMANAGH HERALD ARTICLE AND PHOTO IN PDF FORMAT
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Catholics urge Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform
WASHINGTON (CNA): Catholics from across the country will visit Capitol Hill this week and urge lawmakers to pass comprehensive immigration reform that is in line with proposals presented by the U.S. bishops.
The march on Capitol Hill is part of an April 17-19 conference that will bring together social justice leaders, diocesan directors, and others active in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Justice for Immigrants campaign.Mark Franken, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services office, will give the opening presentation.
The theme for the gathering is “Offering Hope, Promoting Justice.” Participants will share ideas, strategies and best practices for educating the Catholic community about key elements of the bishops’ immigration reform proposals.
The U.S. bishops have consistently advocated for comprehensive immigration reform that includes:
- An earned legalization program that allows undocumented persons to earn permanent residency
- A guest worker program that protects foreign-born workers and safeguards against the displacement of U.S. workers
- Family-based immigration reform that reduces waiting times for family reunificationRestoration of due process protections for immigrants
- Policies that address the root causes of migration.
Other speakers at the three-day conference, held at the Hilton Washington, include Kevin Appleby, the director of the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Policy office; Frank Sherry, the executive director of the National Immigration Forum; and Mirna Torres, the director of legalization and advocacy for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.
READ FULL REPORT
Monday, April 16, 2007
About 59 per cent of the population continues to favour a proposal to allow undocumented immigrants who have been in the United States for several years to gain legal working status and the possibility of future citizenship. Most moderate and liberal Republicans (60 per cent) favour the path to citizenship, but just 45 per cent of conservative Republicans agree.
Democrats also differ over a proposed path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, though solid majorities of both liberal Democrats (76 per cent) and conservative and moderate Democrats (62 per cent) favour this approach.
Bush said, the Government's stepped up enforcement measures including a new fence along the Mexican border have cut down on the number of illegal immigrants entering the country.
Apr 16, 4:58 am
A Sligo County councillor is urging families of illegal Irish emigrants in the US to get the Irish community in America involved in the campaign to get legal status.
More than 1,500 people attended a rally in Dublin on Saturday in support of their family and friends who are living illegally in the US.
The meeting was organised by the New York-based Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform.
Fine Gael councillor Michael Fleming was there also.
READ AT OCEANS FM WEBSITE
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Friday, April 13, 2007
Meanwhile in New York, Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform supporters made a shorter trip to City Hall to speak for the 50,000 undocumented Irish in America at the City Council's Immigration Committee's oversight hearing on New York's interest in Federal Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
Many thanks to Councilman Kendall Stewart, Chairman of the Immigration Committee for providing this local forum to discuss New York's strong interest in comprehensive immigration reform legislation. The concern demonstrated by other committee members who attended the hearing, including Council Members Melissa Mark Viverito, Annabel Palma, Darlene Mealy, and Michael Nelson, is greatly appreciated.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
EXCERPT FROM IRISH ECHO NEWS BRIEFS:
Meanwhile, the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform is this week moving its campaign to Dublin where a rally is being planned in a top city hotel.
The event is set for Saturday in Jury's of Ballsbridge and is intended to raise the profile of the group's campaign in the U.S. while highlighting for an Irish audience just what the undocumented Irish in America are having to face as part of their daily lives.
ILIR executive director Kelly Fincham said that the group was hoping to attract a thousand people to the rally.
The ILIR event comes just days after a conference in Dublin Castle intended as a launch pad for a national debate on the Irish diaspora.
During the conference, attended by a congressional delegation led by Friends of Ireland
chairman, Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, Irish foreign minister Dermot Ahern said that a major priority of his government was that part of the diaspora made up of undocumented Irish in the U.S.
"We are aware that some undocumented Irish people resident in the U.S. are unable to travel home to visit their families, and we understand the difficulty and stress that this causes for them and their families. We take every opportunity to convey to U.S. political leaders the urgent need to address the issues involved," Ahern said.
Ahern welcomed the recent unveiling of the Gutierrez/Flake immigration reform bill in the House of Representatives.
"Although the legislative situation is fluid and the final outcome uncertain, the introduction of the bipartisan bill in the House marks a significant advance in the debate. In the weeks ahead, I will be attaching the highest priority to our efforts on behalf of the undocumented Irish," Ahern said.
READ AT IRISH ECHO WEBSITE
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
New York Times Editorial
Bush on the Border
President Bush went to the Mexico border in Arizona on Monday and showed once again that immigration is an issue he understands. He said America suffers from a system that exploits people who come to do jobs that citizens won’t do. He said the country needed “a practical answer” that promotes an orderly flow of legal immigrants, eases pressure at the border and opens a path to citizenship for the hidden 12 million who keep our economy humming. And he urged Congress to find that answer through a “serious, civil and conclusive debate.”
It was good that Mr. Bush made these points, as he periodically does. But there was a dissonance in his speech, because it came only two weeks after he and a group of Senate Republicans circulated a list of “first principles” about immigration that amounted to a huge step backward for efforts to fix a broken system in a reasonable, humane way.
It proposed new conditions on immigrant labor so punitive and extreme that they amounted to a radical rethinking of immigration — not as an expression of the nation’s ideals and an integral source of its vitality and character, but as a strictly contractual phenomenon designed to extract cheap labor from an unwelcome underclass.
New immigrant workers and those already here would all be treated as itinerant laborers. They could renew their visas, but only by paying extortionate fees and fines. There would be a path to legal status, but one so costly and long that it is essentially a mirage: by some estimates, a family of five could pay more than $64,000 and wait up to 25 years before any member could even apply for a green card. Other families would be torn apart; new workers and those who legalize themselves would have no right to sponsor relatives to join them.
In a country that views immigrants as its lifeblood and cherishes the unity of families, the Republican talking points were remarkable for their chill of nativism and exploitation. They were also unrealistic. The hurdles would create huge impediments to hiring and keeping a stable work force, while pushing the illegal economy deeper underground.
The thrust of Mr. Bush’s speech leaves little room for a vision as crabbed and inhumane as the one he and his party have circulated. It’s hard to tell whether his plainspoken eloquence in Yuma was meant to distance himself from those earlier and benighted talking points, or whether he has simply been talking out of both sides of his mouth.
Mr. Bush should clear up the confusion. He should reaffirm the importance of family-based immigration and of an achievable path to citizenship for those willing, as he put it, “to pay their debt to society and demonstrate the character that makes a good citizen.”
Clarity and forcefulness from Mr. Bush are important because the prospects for a good immigration bill this year are so uncertain. The Senate plans to take up the issue next month, but there is no bill yet, and the talking-points memo shows the debate drifting to the hard right.
Edward Kennedy, the Senate’s most stalwart advocate of comprehensive reform, has been left in the lurch as the Republican presidential hopefuls John McCain and Sam Brownback have run away from sensible positions to court hard-line voters. A decent bipartisan House bill, sponsored by Representatives Jeff Flake and Luis Gutierrez, may not get the hearing it deserves.
Mr. Bush made a strong case for comprehensive reform on Monday. He should keep it up — publicly and forthrightly, as he did this week, and forget about backroom negotiations that produce harsh political manifestoes to appease hard-liners.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Immigration reform: No sitting on the fence
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
First lady Laura Bush was in Washington, D.C. yesterday to act as the official hostess for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.
Meanwhile, President Bush was in Yuma, Ariz., attempting to pull a rabbit out of a hat.
Bush may need to perform a magic trick to persuade Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
He signed a bill last October authorizing construction of 700 additional miles of fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, but that is only part of what he wants from Congress.
He has repeatedly made it clear that comprehensive immigration reform must also provide a path to citizenship for the 12 million illegal immigrants who are already here.
Bush wants to sign such legislation. The Democrat-led Senate wants to pass something like it. However, there is strong opposition from Republicans - and some Democrats - in the House.
It seems ridiculous that time is running out on Bush, but he needs to win support for an immigration bill before lawmakers are preoccupied with the 2008 elections. That could be soon.
In addition, the standoff over war funding and the dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys have soured relations between Bush and Democratic leaders in Congress, so that it is unseasonably cold in Washington these days.
Bush should not be denied this accomplishment because of partisan differences. The Democrats should find common ground with the president on a realistic immigration bill that shows the United States is still a land of opportunity even when it is facing the threat of terrorist attack.
The U.S. must secure its borders. It must also find a way to deal with the 12 million illegal immigrants who live and work here.
If many Republicans and some conservative Democrats have their way, the U.S. will send them home. By bus or by plane? Imagine the line at the ticket counter. That's simply not going to happen. Begin the debate from there.
There are parts of the Bush plan that should not be part of a final bill. For example, he would require immigrants to eventually return to their home country, apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate to re-enter here legally and pay a $10,000 fine. It's better that they pay a much smaller fine, learn English, study American civics, demonstrate they have paid taxes and take their place in line behind legal immigrants applying for citizenship.
It's not all about fences.
READ EDITORIAL AT MASSLIVE.COM
Monday, April 09, 2007
It is impractical to take the position that, oh, we'll just find the 11 million or 12 million people and send them home. It's just an impractical position; it's not going to work. It may sound good. It may make nice sound bite news. It won't happen.
By BEN FELLER, Associated Press Writer
Monday, April 9, 2007
(04-09) 09:44 PDT Crawford, Texas (AP)
President Bush returns to work Monday on the volatile issue of immigration, where his hope for a legislative breakthrough is complicated by cold relations with Congress.
Bush will be back in Yuma, Ariz., to inspect the construction of border fencing and to push for the creation of a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. The trip serves as a bookend to the visit Bush made to the same southwest desert city last May.
It also comes as tension rises over a new immigration proposal tied to the White House.
Bush's team is privately working hard to rally votes for what Bush calls comprehensive reform — a mix of get-tough security with promises of fair treatment for undocumented residents.
The Democratic-led Congress, eager to show some accomplishment on a core issue, wants to get a law passed. So does Bush, who is seeing opportunities to advance his agenda shrink.
Yet immigration is a sticky issue, and the fault lines don't fall along party lines.
With up to 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., lawmakers haven't agreed on how to uphold the law without disrupting lives, eroding the workforce and risking political upheaval.
Bush is hopeful for a legislative compromise by August. He will make his case at a point along
the Yuma Sector Border, a 125-mile stretch overlapping Arizona and California.
The president's relations with Congress these days have been soured by the war in Iraq. He is
at odds with Democratic lawmakers over a bill to extend war funding in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On immigration, the White House has been quietly trying to build momentum.
Administration officials, led by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, have been meeting privately for weeks with Republican senators. That expanded to a meeting in late March with key senators from both parties.
Out of that session, a work-in-progress plan emerged — one described as a draft White House plan by officials in both parties and advocacy groups who got copies of the detailed blueprint.
The White House disputes that characterization. Spokesman Scott Stanzel said it was only a starting point, an emerging consensus of Republican senators and the White House.
Regardless, the floated proposal has already met opposition. Thousands of people marched through Los Angeles on Saturday, fueled in part by what they called a betrayal by Bush.
The plan would grant work visas to undocumented immigrants but require them to return home and pay hefty fines to become legal U.S. residents. They could apply for three-year work visas, dubbed "Z" visas, which would be renewable indefinitely but cost $3,500 each time.
The undocumented workers would have legal status with the visas, but to become legal permanent residents with a green card, they'd have to return to their home country, apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate to re-enter legally and pay a $10,000 fine.
That's far more restrictive than the bipartisan bill the Senate approved last year.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
6 Days until April 14th Dublin Meeting for Families and Friends of the Undocumented Irish in America.
An estimated 30,000 undocumented immigrants who aren't Latino live a more native-born life in New York.
April 8, 2007 -- Woodlawn, The Bronx — IMAGINE HILLARY Clinton holding up a T-shirt that read: "Legalize Mexicans." That's not going to happen, right?Well, last month in Washington, at a rally hosted by the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, the leading Democratic candidate for president actually did have her picture taken holding a shirt that read: "Legalize the Irish."
That's the lobby's in-your-face slogan, which says a lot about the role that race (and ethnicity) plays in the debate about illegal immigration. Latino activists bend over backward trying to cloak undocumented Mexican migrants in the slogan "We are America," but their Irish counterparts don't feel similarly obliged.
There are an estimated 50,000 Irish illegal immigrants in the U.S.; 30,000 of them are thought to live in New York City. Today, this tiny corner in the northern reaches of the Bronx is perhaps the most heavily Irish-born neighborhood in New York, and advocates believe that as many as 40% of local immigrants are undocumented.
On Tuesday afternoon, I walked up Katonah Avenue, Woodlawn's main shopping street, trying to guess who was or wasn't here illegally. How about that blond woman walking with her child? Or perhaps the redhead in pink sweats? Surely the two rough-hewn construction workers enjoying a lunchtime beer at the Rambling House bar didn't have papers.
Like the woman I met in California's Central Valley a few months ago who told me how odd it had been to see white people engaged in farm labor in Australia, it was a decidedly new sensation for me to suspect all the white people around me of being illegal.
"When I tell people I'm undocumented, it shocks them," said Mary Brennan, a nurse's aide who has lived in the U.S. for almost 17 years. "They think of JFK or Ronald Reagan, and they can't understand how an Irish person could be illegal."
Though Brennan shares the hardships of undocumented status with other illegal immigrants throughout the country — last year she was unable to attend her brother's funeral in Ireland for fear that she'd be denied reentry to the U.S. — she acknowledges that Irish illegals do have a slight advantage. It's all in the stereotypes — race-based, language-based, class-based.
Her friend, contractor Dermot Byrne, who also is here illegally, agrees. "From my experience, we're not singled out. If someone's driving down the street and they see five Mexican guys on one side and five Irish guys on the other, they're going to think that the Mexicans are illegal, even though it could be the other way around."
Despite his status, Byrne has placed a pro-immigration-reform sticker on his car, as well as Irish versions of an "I love Jalisco" decal that identify his and his wife's home counties in the old country.Irish immigrant advocates are acutely aware that the American public doesn't identify the Irish as alien, let alone illegal, and they consciously leverage this positive prejudice to their advantage.
"The fact that they're white Europeans agitating for immigration reform is helpful," said Niall O'Dowd, chairman of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform and publisher of the Irish Voice newspaper.
"Bottom line is that every ethnic group brings their own strength to the debate. We can't put a million people in the street, but we have positive political identification and a lot of access to Democrats and Republicans."
There are 40 million Americans of Irish descent, and O'Dowd believes that a good portion of them, particularly the politicians, are sympathetic to the plight of illegal Irish immigrants. His office is filled with snapshots of him shoulder to shoulder with the likes of John McCain, Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy. "The key is to have sympathetic politicians of the same ethnic background," he said.
Seeking to put a white Irish face on the issue of illegal immigration, O'Dowd and the Irish Lobby sent a delegation of 3,000 undocumented workers to Washington last month, not to protest but to lobby U.S. lawmakers. "We Irish are good at playing politics from the inside," he said. "When politicians see that even the Irish can be undocumented, then they realize that there's something wrong with the immigration system."
Saturday, April 07, 2007
DETAILS ON DUBLIN MEETING
Thursday, April 05, 2007
from THE FERMANAGH HERALD:
Rally to support Irish in America
Two Fermanagh ex-pats, Matt and Moira Reilly, who now live in upstate New York and who are active members of the Irish-American community there, are currently working with the United States Congress in Washington, DC to try and bring relief to the 'undocumented Irish' now living in the US.
Matt explains that, presently, a Bill is being introduced in Washington to bring permanent status to many of the thousands of undocumented Irish living across America.
The Bill is known as the Kennedy/McCain Bill, and Matt believes it deserves the support of Irish living both in Ireland and in the USA.
On Saturday, 14th April there is a family and friends' rally in support of the undocumented Irish living in the US. It will be held in Jury's Hotel, Ballsbridge, Dublin starting at 1.00pm.
"I'm calling on all Fermanagh friends to please make every effort to attend this rally", Matt added from his New York home, "and bring as many friends along as possible to help support this important cause. It's a must we get immigration reform".
READ AT THE FERMANAGH HERALD WEBSITE
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Another shot at immigration reform is in the offing. Congress must use this opportunity — before presidential campaigning heats up even more — to act.
From the Journal Sentinel
Posted: April 3, 2007
As many have noted distressingly, the '08 presidential race already has begun. Of the many consequences, count this one as among the most serious: the need to enact immigration reform now.
The majority of Americans recognize the need for broad - and fair - immigration reform.
Standing in the way is the shortened attention span such important issues get once presidential campaigning begins in earnest. Suddenly, what was important gets placed on the back burner.
There exists a promising bill this session, introduced in the House. The bill, authored by Reps. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), mimics much of what was good about failed reform efforts in the previous Congress.
It provides for tougher enforcement, a system for verifying applicants' legal residency for employers, a "new worker" program tied to visas and earned citizenship measures for both the new workers and those workers, perhaps 12 million strong, who are here already and have been contributing mightily to helping the economy chug along. And who, by the way, will not be going anywhere whether there is reform or not. All the more reason to find a means to include them in meaningful fashion in the U.S. social fabric.
But this bill differs in one significant way - and not necessarily for the better. It requires heads of households to leave the country and re-enter legally to gain a shot at permanent residency for them and their families. "Re-booting" is what some call it. In practice, this will not function unless workers can be assured that the re-entry is not just a ruse to keep them out.
As a starting point for resurrecting immigration reform, Flake-Gutierrez has merit. The same cannot be said of immigration "principles" crafted by the White House and GOP senators, details of which are slowly becoming known. These reportedly do not address a serious backlog issue for those still waiting to enter the country. Simply, this tears families apart. The principles also reportedly do not include a meaningful path to citizenship. This means little incentive to come out of the shadows.
Carlina Tapia-Ruano, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, spoke to the Editorial Board on Tuesday and later to the Rotary Club of Milwaukee. She noted a basic fact. The current immigration system is broken. Needed is a system that regulates flow, a system that allows employers to have the workers they need - doing work, in many instances, that Americans won't do - and a system that humanely considers the need for families to be together by eliminating insufferable backlogs. Fences are not the answer.
The Flake-Gutierrez bill, the STRIVE Act, will take the country much closer to that goal. If it is not enacted this year, another chance to solve a problem in need of immediate solution will have been squandered. Again.
READ AT MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL WEBSITE