Monday, April 28, 2008

Raise ambition level on immigration, says ILIR

Time is pressing

By Irish Echo Staff

The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform said this week that its goals are the same as when it was founded in December 2005. It wants to find a path to legal status for the undocumented Irish in the U.S., and a path to legal status for future Irish immigrants.

But says Executive Director Kelly Fincham in an opinion piece in this week's Irish Echo, time is pressing. "The Economist recently warned that the weakening Irish property market could topple the country's economy because of Ireland's dependence on construction-related
revenue," she writes.

"Unemployment in the Republic is higher than it has been in a decade, while the first quarter's increase in unemployment was the worst since 1975. Thousands of construction jobs are also at risk in the North because of the downturn in building activity," she adds.

"Our community is in deep difficulty. A two-tier structure has emerged in Irish neighborhoods over legal status," she argues. "Organizations such as the GAA are unable to play games in Ireland because of visa issues, while Irish immigration centers across the U.S. are reporting a surge in new arrivals."

"From the very beginning, the ILIR aligned ourselves with the Kennedy/McCain bill, which sought to create a conditional path to legal status for all undocumented immigrants. Kennedy/McCain did not promote amnesty, and neither did we. We have never sought amnesty for the undocumented Irish. We sought legality," Fincham says.

And she adds: "We believe it's time to lift the ambition level. Let's work towards a solution which reverses what Senator Kennedy described as the one of the unforeseen consequences of the 1965 Immigration Act: the 'dramatic and significant' discrimination against Irish immigrants
to the U.S."

Friday, April 25, 2008

Support from a US citizen

We don't often do this; but this comment deserves a post of its own...From Mary Kate in New York

MaryKate: I have been reading through here. I don't know how this is going to be received, but, here goes.....

My great-grandfather was born in Tourmakeady. After a brief stint in London, as a young man he found his way to New York City c. 1920. He had much less than some of the posters here have. He didn't have much to get by on: 8th grade education, not many marketable skills (even by the day's standards,) and only had his sisters to rely on for company.

Time passed for him. He met a girl from roughly the next town over in Ireland. They married, raised many children, and used their house in Brooklyn to help others adjust to America: they would board folks off the boat until they found a place to live. In the meantime, he worked the docks in Brooklyn and did the work most of the high and mighty "Americans" wouldn't touch with a barge pole. (During the Depression things were particularly bad: they lost a baby to genetic defect and hospital bills were terrible.)

Many years later, I look at his wedding photo, and then I look around: the sacrifices he and his wife made all those years ago paid off hugely. His daughter and her husband (may he rest in peace) have been helping folks in Woodside for decades. More than half of his grandchildren went to university: one is a professor at McGill in Canada. Another is a lawyer. His great-grandchildren include an engineer, a stockbroker, and my sister is a doctor-to-be. I am about to graduate with a degree in computer animation. All of this wouldn't have been possible without him: if he had never left or dared for something more I would not have been born, nor would an entire clan of people exist.

"So what does this have to do with the present discussion?"-More than you realize. Pop got here by jumping ship to Canada & then sailing down the Hudson: today that would get him INS all over his tail. He worked his @#$ off helping the US Navy at the Yards for his part in the war effort: today that would land him in jail as his contracts wouldn't be legit. He had a license until he was too old to see (not possible now) and his emigration helped others coming after him (not encouraged now.) He even helped his son-in-law (another Mayo man) get started in business-today he might not have the money! To say that I am disgusted is an understatement-my Pop EARNED the right to be here as much as I have the right to exist, which is more than I can say about some fat cats in Congress or especially King George.

My best advice is HOLD THE LINE. DO NOT BREAK. IF YOU TRULY WANT TO STAY HERE, NEVER BREAK OR THE BAD GUYS WIN. Immigration reform is needed badly here and the only folks who have a hope of changing it are immigrants, not necessarily voters: the work illegal immigrants generate is worth billions of dollars. If that were to suddenly dry up and people went on strike it could cripple the infrastructure-deporting millions of people at once is damned near impossible and 50,000+ illegal Irish could be leaders easily of a movement. (look up Mother Jones if you don't believe me.) Learn more about the history of the Irish here: there is a lot more to it than a song by the Pogues or, at least what I have seen from kin overseas, a textbook spiel (greater obstacles have been faced and overcome.) Speak to American friends who will listen-they will help you. And yes, albeit blunderingly with green beer and bad versions of The Wild Rover, reach out to your local AOH, chock full of Irish Americans whose pockets are deep and connections big.

In the meantime, wait a little until after the next election. Don't put much stock in HIlary or McCain-neither seem keen on changing much (McCain is towing the old xenophobic party line and Hilary doesn't give a tinker's damn about immigrants except if they are Chinese snakeheads who can intimidate the downtrodden Chinatowners into "donations". ) Don't wait for the Irish govt. to do much: if the economy starts to buck like a mule again the priorities shall shift. HOLD THE LINE, AND DEMAND WHAT YOU WANT.

And to the lady before me: don't give up just yet. Money can't solve everything, you're right, but going two steps forward and three back doesn't help either. You want better opportunity and so does he. The fact that you are still hanging tough and hanging on should be a testament, not a tragedy: my Pop was damned near broke, had a wife who constantly argued with his sister, had no health insurance, three small kids, and a fourth one slowly dying because he couldn't keep food in his stomach. So what did he do?-He set up a still in his basement at the height of Prohibition for extra cash, managed to have two more children, took another job with the local church, and by the time he was very old (100) surrounded himself with all his numerous kin, toothlessly shaking his cane at the sky and taunting the [long dead] brother who stayed behind that he beat him.

Have faith. It will work out in time.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Undocumented immigrants contributed $428 billion to economy in 2006

CNN reports that undocumented immigrants are paying billions of dollars in taxes into the US system each year. Nothing new there for those of us who know what's going on in the real world. Hopefully some food for thought for some other people who think undocumented immigrants is just a fancy phrase for freeloaders.

Friday, April 04, 2008

San Francisco Offers Common-Sense Solution in Absence of CIR

A series of new television and radio commercials, billboards and bus shelter signs will soon go up around San Francisco advertising the fact that the city promises safe access to city services for the undocumented and a don't-ask-don't-tell policy when it comes residency status.

"We are standing up to say to all of our residents: We don't care what your status is," Mayor Gavin Newsom said. "We care that you, as a human being, are a resident of our city and we want you to participate in the life of our city."

The campaign precedes the city's plan in August to begin issuing municipal identification cards to city residents - regardless of whether they are in the country legally. Officials said they not only want immigrants to know about San Francisco's sanctuary city policy, they want city workers, business owners and others to know the same.

"We're taking a big bite of the reality sandwich in admitting that there are people who live here who may or may not have citizen status," said Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who helped spearhead the ad campaign and who represents the city's heavily Latino Mission District.

Police Chief Heather Fong said officers will report undocumented immigrants if they have a felony arrest, but otherwise, "we do not work on enforcing immigration laws."

Read the full story here. Picture shows Mayor Newsom with Fr Brendan McBride from the Irish Immigration Pastoral Center at an ILIR event in San Francisco.