Saturday, December 13, 2008
UNDOCUMENTED IRISH immigrants are "largely removed and marginalised" from positive developments in the relationship between Ireland and the United States, President Mary McAleese told an audience in San Francisco last night.
In a plea for greater understanding for their predicament, Mrs McAleese said it was important that efforts continue to reach an agreement to regularise the status of the undocumented.
"I am deeply conscious that there are many within the Irish community in this city who are caught in this situation. So many of the undocumented Irish have lived in the US for many years and, like generations of previous Irish emigrants, they work hard, raise families and make an important contribution to the economic and social life of their communities," she said. "And yet, they live in the shadows of society with fear and uncertainty as their constant companions. Most, we know, also suffer greatly from the pain of not being able to travel to and from Ireland because of the difficulties of re-entry."
Speaking at San Francisco's Irish Immigration and Pastoral Centre on the second day of a week-long visit to the US, Mrs McAleese said many undocumented Irish immigrants came to the US before the 9/11 attacks prompted tighter border restrictions.
"Meanwhile they got jobs, met partners, got married, raised families and put down roots in an adopted homeland that they had grown to love dearly," she said.
"Some very committed people have championed their cause and the Irish Government has used every possible opportunity to advocate on their behalf and will continue to do so. Efforts are also ongoing to reform our own wider migration arrangements with the United States in a way that complements the modern nature of our relationship."
Earlier yesterday, Mrs McAleese addressed a breakfast for Silicon Valley entrepreneurs hosted at Stanford University by Enterprise Ireland before inaugurating new GAA playing fields on Treasure Island. The President acknowledged that her message to American audiences has changed to take account of the economic difficulties faced by both Ireland and the US.
"We have come through a very difficult period and we're heading into a very difficult period. But we've also come out of an extraordinary time, a time when the whole of Irish fortunes were turned around, when we told a story about ourselves that we never thought possible," she said.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
- REVIEW & OUTLOOK
- DECEMBER 2, 2008
Virginia Republican Congressman Virgil Goode's narrow loss to Democrat Tom Perriello became official last week, and it caps another bad showing for immigration restrictionists. For the second straight election, incumbent Republicans who attempted to turn illegal immigration into a wedge issue fared poorly.
Anti-immigration hardliners Randy Graf, John Hostettler and J.D. Hayworth were among the Republicans who lost in 2006. Joining them this year were GOP Representatives Thelma Drake (Virginia), Tom Feeney (Florida), Ric Keller (Florida) and Robin Hayes (North Carolina) -- all Members of a House anti-immigration caucus that focuses on demonizing the undocumented.
According to a review of election results by America's Voice, an advocacy group, Republican restrictionists had especially weak showings in "battleground" races. "Nineteen of 21 winners advocated immigration policies beyond enforcement-only," says the report. "This includes 5 of 5 Senate races and 14 of 16 House races listed in the 'toss-up,' 'leans Republican,' or 'leans Democratic' categories of the Cook Political Report."
Mr. Goode, a 12-year incumbent, had made a name for himself in Congress as a seal-the-border advocate. Among other things, he has called for mass deportations and amending the Constitution to deny U.S. citizenship to children of illegal aliens.
Immigration wasn't a dominant issue this fall, and other factors contributed more to the GOP defeat. But the political reality is that Republicans who thought that channeling Lou Dobbs would save their seats will soon be ex-Members. Meanwhile, exit polls showed that the Republican share of the Hispanic vote fell to 31% this year from more than 40% in 2004. The demographic reality is that the GOP can't win national elections while losing such a large share of the fastest-growing ethnic minority in the country.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
“They live like ghost citizens,” says Kelly Fincham, executive director of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform. “They’re here, but they’re not here.”
The word is that Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona is President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for homeland security secretary, which would make her the country’s top official handling immigration enforcement and border control.
Lucky country. Poor Arizona.
It would be a relief to see the job go to someone with a solid understanding of immigration and all its complexities and political traps. As governor of a border state, Ms. Napolitano knows the landscape intimately. She has a cool head and a proven willingness to pursue policies that conform to reality, rather than the other way around. For years, the country has stumbled in a state of immigration panic, using harsh tactics to create the illusion of control while rejecting comprehensive strategies that would attack the problem at its roots.
Getting comprehensive reform passed may be a difficult slog for the new administration. But it can move quickly to repair what has gone awry with the enforcement-only regime, starting with reining in state and local crackdowns. Ms. Napolitano would do the country a huge favor by taking a withering look at a fellow Arizonan, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has used the federal 287(g) program, which delegates immigration enforcement to the local police, to terrorize immigrants in Phoenix.
Ms. Napolitano is famously skeptical of the border fence, the Bush administration’s 700-mile, multibillion-dollar desert speed bump. The fence was never going to be the zip-lock seal its defenders clamored for, and is hardly worth the expense or environmental damage it has caused. Ms. Napolitano is well aware that the way to get tough at the border is to bring the visa supply in line with reality and give the Border Patrol the resources to catch drug smugglers and other bad people.
The federal crackdown on illegal hiring is a similar mishmash of hastily erected rules, including much-criticized systems of checking workers’ names against error-plagued databases. Ms. Napolitano would do well to ensure a slow, judicious rollout of electronic workplace enforcement, to avoid mistakes that could ruin the lives and livelihoods of thousands of legitimate employees.
The immigration detention system, which has been scarred by horrifying accounts of neglect and mistreatment, is in dire need of reform to ensure humane standards of medical care. And perhaps most important, the new administration should abolish the disastrous campaign of raids that have sundered families and spread terror through immigrant communities while making no meaningful difference in the undocumented population.
Ms. Napolitano’s departure would leave a void in Arizona, a caldron of resentments and fear and thick-headed immigration politics — a topic on which she has long been one of the cooler voices in the state. She says she likes to begin speeches before tough audiences with a rhetorical question: “Who here favors illegal immigration? Nobody? O.K., we’ve got a consensus on an issue that nobody is supposed to agree on. Let’s go from here.”