Friday, June 27, 2008

Obama presidency would be bad for undocumented Irish

Brian O'Dwyer
Irish Echo, April 2008

(Brian O'Dwyer is a prominent attorney in NYC and the chairman of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center. This op-ed appeared in April when there were still three candidates in the race.)

In the midst of a long and arduous presidential campaign the inevitable question for those of us engaged in advocacy for Irish immigration arises.

Which candidate will advance the cause of Irish immigration and end the decades old discrimination that the Irish have suffered as a result of a cruel immigration law beset with bigotry?

Of course we have the benefit of the campaign position papers and the history of the candidates.

In large measure the position of all three candidates Senators Clinton,Obama and McCain are similar. All three supported comprehensive immigration reform and both their history and their positions would indicate that as part of that reform that they would each support a path to citizenship for those who are presently undocumented.

In particular, Senator McCain has shown a courage rarely exhibited in modern political life by adhering to his stand and sponsoring comprehensive immigration legislation.

While other Republican candidates seemed to spend most of their time in campaign debates demonizing recent immigrants, Senator McCain was often a lonely voice for a reasonable solution to the problems of recent immigration. Senators Clinton and Obama also maintained, amidst general agreement in the Democratic debates, that they too would support immigration reform and regularization of the undocumented.

The task then is to look beyond the words and to examine the close advisers to the candidates who will have the most to say in the next four to eight years as to whether the rank inequity of the present law and its inherent unfairness to the Irish will finally be ended.

In this regard, Senators McCain and Clinton clearly have the edge while an a Obama administration must give us all cause for alarm.

Senator McCain's advisers on Ireland and Irish issues include both Jeff Cleary and Grant Lally. These two men have been both prominent in Irish-American Republicans and the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform. Long before it was fashionable, both men gave their time and talents to the Emerald Isle Immigration Center and have been long-standing board members.

Irish-American Republicans was one of the first groups to support Senator McCain at a time when virtually the entire country had written him off as a candidate. In a McCain administration, these men can be counted on to be strong and forceful voices for the Irish.

We can feel no such comfort in predicting the course of an Obama administration. Obama's adviser on Ireland and the Irish is Trina Vargo, the head of the US Ireland Alliance.

She is clearly hostile to ending the decades-old intolerance that is besetting our people. In an article in the Irish Times last November she argued that "Irish illegals are not a special case" and that those who sought an end to the discriminatory treatment of the Irish were "morally wrong".

She further argued that those who sought legislation to relieve the suffering of the thousands that are here without documentation were attempting "to put lipstick on that pig." Obviously it will be a long eight years for the suffering undocumented with Ms. Vargo in the councils of an Obama administration

Irish America can be immensely proud of its work done in the past decades. It has advanced the cause of peace and worked hard in the political process to provide opportunities for those who would seek to come to this country and contribute to its well being as our ancestors have done.

Of course a great deal of work still remains to achieve the equity that we have long sought. That's why this election is critical. It would be a shame to see our work. and the work of our fathers, come to naught in a hostile administration.

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