Thursday, November 27, 2008

Good news for undocumented Irish on way in Senate?

There may be some good news coming down the line for undocumented Irish immigrants or "illegal Irish," as some know-nothings say. Take a look at what Frank Sharry has to say this week.

From Frank Sharry's Blog on Huffington Post

In an interview published in Gannet News Service over the weekend, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke candidly of plans to both address and pass immigration reform legislation in the 111th Congress.

Reid told Gannett News,

"On immigration, there's been an agreement between (President-elect Barack) Obama and (Arizona Republican Sen. John) McCain to move forward on that. ... We'll do that."

The Senate Majority Leader went on say that he did not expect "much of a fight at all," and expressed his optimism about passing common sense immigration reform in the near future.

Why is Reid so confident?

It may have something to do with the failure of anti-immigrant politics at the ballot-box, the growing power of the Latino and immigrant vote, or the realization that Americans are looking to those they elected to tackle and solve the toughest issues of our day.

What's more, in this new landscape, Senator Reid's comments join a distinctly bipartisan chorus. Chiming in are many Republican strategists and leaders speaking out against the GOP's restrictionist, enforcement-only approach to immigration. Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) recently said on NBC's Meet the Press:

"There were voices within our party that if they continue with that kind of anti-Hispanic rhetoric, we're going to be relegated to minority status."

In Newsweek, Karl Rove argued that, in order for the GOP to stay afloat, Republicans must truly support policy that "strengthens citizenship, grows our economy and keeps America a welcoming nation."

Given this new political reality, all signs point to a monumental shift in how immigration reform may be taken up and tackled in the 111th Congress.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hope for Reform

November 19, 2008

Editorial The Irish Voice

THE victories by President-elect Barack Obama in states such as Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Florida sent a strong signal about the extraordinary role that the Hispanic vote played in this election.

Put simply, without the 75% Hispanic vote support that he enjoyed Obama would have found it a lot harder to get to the White House.

At the same time the defeat of 10 of the 12 most anti-immigrant representatives in the House, as well the defeat of Republican Senator Elizabeth Dole, also notoriously anti-immigrant, in the Senate race in North Carolina sends its own signal.

What is says is that railing against the undocumented doesn’t sell well with the vast majority of Americans, and it downright damages the party that uses it continuously from its bag of dirty tricks.

The power of the Hispanic vote in this election is a powerful signal to the immigration lobby that real reform can be achieved in the life of the next Congress. After the bitter disappointment of the Bush years we are looking at a whole new beginning with Obama.

The president-elect has been a supporter of comprehensive reform and, no doubt, his extraordinary level of support in the Hispanic community will further nudge him in the direction of doing something decisive.

It is no certain thing, however, as we learned in the current administration with the failed effort to pass the Kennedy/McCain bill in this Congress.

Indeed, Hispanic leaders have already stated that they do not expect immediate action on the issue given the dangerous state of the economy and the two major separate wars that America is fighting.

However, immigration groups should be reluctant to allow too much time to pass before making their presence known. The reality is that the squeaky wheel gets the grease in Congress, and there is no time like the present to capitalize on the incredible support Obama got from Hispanic voters.

Of course the usual clowns such as Lou Dobbs and many legislators will begin their catch cries soon after any campaign is launched. But if this election showed anything it is that Americans are ready for tough, fair solutions to difficult problems and are desperately tired of the business as usual atmosphere in Congress.

The anti-immigrant sentiment whipped up by people such as Dobbs and others was evident in the tragic death of a young Ecuadorian immigrant in Patchogue, Long Island last week when a gang of high schoolers went on a “Mexican” hunting expedition and stabbed him to death.

It is hardly coincidental that the Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, a Democrat, has been among the most vituperative and hate-filled spokesmen against immigrants. His bile certainly bore evil fruit on this occasion.

All of which points to the need to settle on a sensible immigration policy that solves the issue once and for all.

No one is calling for open borders, and everyone wishes that laws can be enforced, but there is no doubt that some kind of program with a path to citizenship for the undocumented must be instituted. No less a person than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made the same point in The New York Times Magazine last Sunday.

With Obama as president that day is certainly nearer, but it cannot come soon enough for the thousands of Irish and other undocumented who live in dread every day. Let us hope the new president sets a process in motion that can end this enduring nightmare for everyone.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Grace and elegance at the end of the road

Sen. Barack Obama's soaring acceptance speech Tuesday evening was matched by Sen. John McCain's elegant and gracious concession speech. We wish Senator McCain well, he has been a huge supporter of immigration reform and we hope to see him revisit this issue in the not-too-distant future.

A new era in U.S. politics

And maybe a glimmer of hope for us? Polling data shows that Hispanics turned away from the Republican party in droves, punishing Sen. John McCain for his party's attitude toward immigration. Maybe now there is a REAL chance for comprehensive immigration reform? Cynics might say that the Democrats won't risk touching immigration in the first term but Democrats also can't risk losing the Hispanic vote. See today's New York Times (quoted below)
Mr. Obama also did strikingly well among Hispanic voters, beating Mr. McCain did far less better among those voters than Mr. Bush did in 2004, suggesting the damage the Republican Party has suffered among those voters over four years in which Republicans have been at the forefront on the effort to crack down on illegal immigrants.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Rise in number of Irish deported from US

Conn Corrigan, The Irish Times

Tue, Nov 04, 2008

INCREASING NUMBERS of Irish people are being sent home from the United States due to a big rise in overall deportations.

In the New York consular area, 27 Irish people have been deported so far this year, compared to 12 for the whole of 2006. The area comprises New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and seven other states in the east and southeast of the US.

The total number of deportations of Irish people from the US is also up: in 2006, 41 were deported; in 2007, 53; and so far this year, 58 have been expelled for immigration violations, figures from the Irish consulates reveal.

The trend reflects an increase in deportations across the US. Figures from US immigration and customs enforcement, a branch of the department of homeland security, show a dramatic rise in deportations since 2001. That year there were 116,460 "removals". By October of this year, there were 349,041, an increase of more than 20 per cent from 2007.

Donald Kerwin, vice-president of programmes for the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank that studies immigration, said a variety of factors had "conspired to greatly increase the numbers of deportations".

Mr Kerwin cited greater enforcement measures, more co-ordination between the various government agencies involved in immigration, and a very contentious public debate on immigration policy, as being particularly important.

Orla Kelleher, executive director of the Aisling Irish Community Centre, which works with Irish immigrants in New York, said changes in ID requirements for internal flights meant some undocumented Irish were being picked up by authorities at airports.

Kelly Fincham, executive director of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, pointed out that prior to changes made after the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York, undocumented Irish were able to apply for a driver's licence. Now, only those with a valid social security number can do so.

Ms Fincham said this meant that undocumented Irish who were caught up in routine traffic stops and were asked for ID were forced to use their passports for identification, which would show they were in the country illegally.

Even though a violation of immigration laws is a civil rather than a criminal offence, those who await deportation are often held with common criminals. The standard waiting time in the New York consular area is four to six weeks.

In the Boston area, according to Fr John McCarthy of the Irish Pastoral Centre in that city, the detention period is usually about six weeks. Fr McCarthy said that in one case earlier this year, two men from Co Cork were detained for 12 weeks prior to their deportation.

"Most of these people who have been detained would never have been in jail before," said Sheila Gleeson, executive director of the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centres. "They are mostly young guys in their 20s who've never been in trouble."

Niall O'Dowd, chairman of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, said the rise in numbers of Irish deportations underscored the urgency of immigration reform in the US. "I see a very different emphasis by Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Foreign Minister Micheál Martin on this issue," Mr O'Dowd added. They were "fully committed to resolving it", he said.

© 2008 The Irish Times