Friday, May 30, 2008

Cowen to address undocumented crisis in U.S. visit

By Ray O'Hanlon
Irish Echo May 28

Taoiseach Brian Cowen is expected to visit to the U.S. in the near future, his first visit as head of government, and part of his mission will be to address the plight of the undocumented Irish.

Cowen met with Irish Lobby for Immigration reform chairman Niall O'Dowd in Dublin last week. O'Dowd described the meeting as "very positive" and said he was of the view that Cowen was "totally committed" to helping the undocumented Irish.

Helping the undocumented is one of the few areas of apparent cross-party agreement in Ireland although opposition parties, most especially Fine Gael, have criticized the Fianna Fáil-led government for a lack of progress on the idea of a bilateral visa deal between Ireland and
the U.S.

"I regret that the government missed a window of opportunity on this issue last November when it agreed a motion with Fine Gael to seek a bilateral agreement which would benefit Irish and American citizens seeking to work and travel between the two countries," said Fine Gael TD, Michael Ring, in a recent statement.

"This motion attracted cross-party support, so the government needs to fulfill the wishes of the Dáil by dealing with the plight of these Irish citizens," Ring said. "A bilateral agreement exists between the U.S. administration and the Australian government which allows 10,000 Australians to work in the United States annually while American citizens are granted the same number of Australian visas in return. "Given the strong economic ties between the island of Ireland and the United States I believe an agreement of this nature is the way forward," Ring said.

With regard to the undocumented, Sinn Féin senator Pearse Doherty said it was an issue "deep in the hearts of Irish people both here and in the U.S. and I want to pledge Sinn Féin's continued support for the (ILIR) campaign."

Doherty recently proposed a successful all party motion in the Seanad (Irish Senate) in support of the undocumented, this so that those campaigning for the undocumented would be able to argue that both houses of the Oireachtas were in support of their campaign. The motion was passed unanimously in the 66-member upper house.

"The undocumented Irish in America play a full and positive role in U.S. society and contribute to the economy. They have made good lives for themselves and are very much at home in the U.S. However the fear of not being allowed return means visits home are out of the question. This puts a huge strain on both the Irish in the U.S. and their families here at home as they cannot return for family get-togethers, weddings or even funerals. They are effectively cut off from their families.

"Every effort must be made to keep this issue to the fore of politics both here and in the U.S.," Senator Doherty concluded.

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