Saturday, May 09, 2009

Standing room only at ILIR meeting in New York

Several hundred people packed out Rory Dolan's in Yonkers, New York for the launch of the ILIR's 2009 campaign.

Read more at the Irish Echo

Read more at Irish Central

Click here to see a slideshow of images

Click here to see RTE report

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Times says labor unions back legalization deal

The nation’s two major labor federations have agreed for the first time to join forces to support an overhaul of the immigration system, leaders of both organizations said on Monday. The accord could give President Obama significant support among unions as he revisits the stormy issue in the midst of the recession. read more

Thursday, April 09, 2009

New hope for undocumented Irish

Bart Murphy, the chairman of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, has welcomed the news that the Obama administration is planning a new initiative on the U.S. immigration system later this year.

On Wednesday, Cecilia Muñoz, deputy assistant to the president and director of intergovernmental affairs in the White House, said that the President would begin examining ways in which undocumented workers could gain a path to citizenship. Read more

Bruce Morrison with Boston Irish at ILIR meeting

A large crowd gathered at the Irish Cultural Center of New England in Canton, Massachusetts on Monday night to hear from the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR).

The meeting, which was organized by Irish immigrants Hugh Meehan and Jimmy Gallagher, was a great success, according to ILIR chairman Bart Murphy. Read more

ILIR draws Boston crowd (Irish Echo)

After a hiatus and a change in chairmanship the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform resumed its public campaign for immigration reform this week with a meeting at the Irish Cultural Center of New England in Canton, just outside Boston.
Several hundred attended the meeting to hear the ILIR's Ciaran Staunton vow that the group "wants to make sure that this is the last generation of Irish in America that has to listen to a family member's funeral on the telephone. It is our goal that this is the last generation of Irish to be undocumented in America."
Former Congressman Bruce Morrison, a consultant to ILIR, outlined details of the proposed E3 visa scheme and pledged that, in one way or another, it would provide some benefits for the undocumented as well as providing a future long term, sustainable system of migration to the United States.
Recently elected ILIR chairman, Bart Murphy, stated that the U.S. immigration system had been broken for 45 years and that prior fixes such as the Donnelly and Morrison visas, although very helpful, had not dealt with the fact that there was little or no pathway for Irish immigration.
The crowd, estimated by organizers at 350, warmly applauded Massachusetts ILIR representatives Hugh Meehan and Jimmy Gallagher and pledged active involvement in the ongoing ILIR campaign.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

350 turn out for ILIR in Boston

Over 350 Boston Irish braved a dark dreary evening to come to the Irish Cultural Center of New England in Canton, MA to hear ILIR President Ciaran Staunton vow "ILIR wants to make sure that this is the last generation of Irish in America that has to listen to a family member's funeral on the telephone. It is our goal that this is the last generation of Irish to be undocumented in America."

Former Congressman Bruce Morrison, public affairs consultant to ILIR explained the details of the proposed E3 visa and pledged that in one way or another it wil provide some benefits for the undocumented here as well as providing a future long term sustainable system of migration to the United States.

ILIR Chairman Bart Murphy stated that the immigration system has been broken for 45 years and that prior fixes such as the Donnelly and Morrison visas, although very helpful, did not deal with the systemic problem that there were little or no pathways for immigration.

The crowd gave enthusiastic support to local ILIR representatives Hugh Meehan and Jimmy Gallagher and pledged active involvement in the ILIR campaigns going forward.

Our picture shows LIR Chairman Bart Murphy, former Congressman Bruce Morrison, ILIR President Ciaran Staunton, San Francisco ILIR representative Celine Kennelly and Boston ILIR representatives Hugh Meehan and Jimmy Gallagher following a successful ILIR meeting in Boston.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

ILIR goes back on the road

The ILIR has reorganized and is back on the road again for a series of meetings to let YOU have your say. We know you have questions about what's going on and we hope to have answers for you.
Our first meeting will take place at the Irish Cultural Center in Boston on Monday April 6 at 7.30pm. Speakers will include Bruce Morrison, ILIR chairman Bart Murphy, vice-chairman Ciaran Staunton and Celine Kennelly from the San Francisco Irish Immigration Pastoral Center. Questions? Call 718 598 7530 or e-mail

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam

Many ILIR supporters will know Samantha Melia who electrified so many meetings in the U.S. with her take-no-prisoners attitude. And those of you who attended the Friends and Family rally in Dublin would have heard Samantha's father make an impassioned plea for his daughter and all the undocumented Irish in the U.S. For those of us who met both Samantha and her father, it was clear that the apple truly never falls far from the tree.

We are saddened to report that Samantha's father, Davey Meade, has passed away in Ireland. We extend our deepest condolences to Sam and her husband Liam and all of the Meade family.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Murphy takes over at ILIR

The well-known Irish immigration advocate Bart Murphy is taking over as chairman of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform.

Murphy, who sits on the board of the American Ireland Fund and is the chair of the coalition of Irish Immigration Centers, is one of the original ILIR board members.

He will be taking over from current chairman Niall O'Dowd. O'Dowd, who will swap places with Murphy on the advisory board, is stepping aside to devote his attention to a new business.

O'Dowd recently announced he was heading up a new Irish website aims to become a global Irish portal.

However, O'Dowd has pledged to remain committed to the cause.

"I will continue to serve on ILIR's advisory board and be available to the organization on an ongoing basis,"he said.

"My new role at Irish Central requires full time attention and energy at this key period for immigration reform,” he said. "I believe Bart will do a magnificent job. There is no-one more experienced. "

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Schumer to take helm on immigration panel

By Ray O'Hanlon

February 18, 2009 New York's Seantor Charles Schumer is the new chairman of the Senate Immigration-Sub Committee. He will take over the role vacated recently by Senator Edward Kennedy who held the position for 28 years.

The sub-committee, which also covers issues pertaining to refugees and border security, is an arm of the full Senate Judiciary Committee and in its new form will be made up of six Democrats, including Schumer, and foruR republicans with the ranking Republican being Senator John Cornyn of Texas.

Senator Schumer has considerable experience in immigration issues and his name has been for years associated with the diversity visa program.

Another member of the panel, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, recently visited Ireland and is seen as a strong supporters of Irish causes in Washington.

Meanwhile, Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform vice chairman Ciaran Staunton was back in the U.S. this week after a week long visit to Ireland during which he met with a number of Irish political leaders including foreign minister Micheál Martin and the new secretary general of the Department of Foreign Affairs, David Cooney.

Also at the meeting was Kate Hickey of the Irish-based Friends and Families of the Undocumented Irish lobby group.

"It was fairly good," Staunton said of the two-hour meeting.

"I was very impressed with the range and depth of Martin's knowledge of the situation both on the ground in the community and with the political situation in Washington. He understands that we have two very important issues at hand; the issue of the undocumented and the issue of future legal access to America," Staunton said.

"Clearly he is being kept well-up-to-date by Ambassador (Michael) Collins and others."

The meeting also included ILIR board member Bart Murphy who joined by phone from San Francisco.

Staunton said he was also impressed by David Cooney's grasp of the issues.

"Having grown up in an immigrant house he brings a unique insight to the immigration issue," Staunton said of the British-born and now top Irish diplomat

"He has a great understanding of the diaspora," he said.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

ILIR meetings in Boston, NY & San Francisco

The ILIR will be holding a series of meetings over the coming weeks. Please email iliroffice AT gmail DOT com if you would like to be notified of the meetings.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Immigration Reform Advocates Ready to Try Again

This time around the circumstances are more favorable for passing reform legislation
By Justin Ewers

Posted February 13, 2009 U.S. News and World Report

When immigration reform last made an appearance on Capitol Hill, in the summer of 2007, the flood of phone calls from opponents of the legislation was so great, it temporarily shut down the congressional switchboard.

The bill's supporters, an unlikely alliance of Republicans and Democrats from President Bush and John McCain to Ted Kennedy and Harry Reid, had spent months searching for consensus. But the furious, well-organized response from conservatives opposed to "amnesty" for illegal immigrants left them short of the 60 votes needed to bring the bill to a final vote in the Senate.

In the end, a small majority of senators—mostly Republicans but including some Democrats—voted against the measure to toughen border enforcement, crack down on employers of undocumented workers, and create a pathway to citizenship for the country's 12 million illegal immigrants. "I had hoped for a bipartisan accomplishment," Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate minority leader, said after the bill was tabled. "What we got was a bipartisan defeat."

Undeterred, only 18 months later, would-be immigration reformers are gearing up to try again. Shrugging off concerns about how the issue will fare politically during an economic downturn, they are pressing President Obama to keep a campaign pledge to tackle the issue in his first year. "It's never a perfect time to do this," says Tamar Jacoby, president of ImmigrationWorks USA, a national federation working to change immigration law. "But at some point, you have to bite the bullet and say, 'This is the time.' "

On the face of it, what was politically impossible then does not seem quite so unattainable anymore. If a bill is introduced in the next year, it will be the first time since 1965 that major immigration legislation is considered without Republicans in control of any branch of government. Reformers not only have a popular president on their side and a Senate Democratic majority hovering just below 60 votes, they also have some highly motivated allies. Harry Reid, the Senate's Democratic majority leader, is up for re-election next year in Nevada, a state that is 25 percent Latino. Former presidential candidate John McCain, meanwhile, has reportedly returned to the Senate determined to revisit one of his signature issues.

"Even though there was so much bloodshed on the Senate floor last time, there do seem to be some willing warriors ready to take it back on," says Angela Kelley, director of the Immigration Policy Center in Washington. Polls show that nearly 70 percent of voters favor some path to citizenship for illegal immigrants if they pay a penalty, pay taxes, and learn English.

Questions still linger, of course, around how much support a renewed reform effort can expect from conservatives in both parties with unemployment rising. Michael Steele, the newly elected chairman of the Republican National Committee, has insisted that his party will not be softening its opposition to "amnesty." Reformers, though, are pressing on with their outreach efforts. If history is any guide, Congress may want to get ready for a few phone calls.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Irish urged to revisit visa deal with U.S.

The Irish Echo interviewed ILIR vice-chairman Ciaran Staunton this week. Ciaran is in Ireland talking to the Irish Government about the need for a US-Irish solution to immigration reform, particularly something that will allow for more regular movement of citizens from both countries.

The meeting came in the same week that leading San Francisco-based reform campaigner, Bart Murphy, called for a bilateral deal between Dublin and Washington along the lines of an existing visa treaty between the U.S. and Australia. (more)

Misery of the returned emigrant

The Irish Times, Wed, Feb 11, 2009

OPINION:After 16 years in Canada, I came home to Ireland. Big mistake. A really big mistake . . . writes BRENDAN LANDERS.

THERE ARE three types of people who uproot themselves and emigrate to make their lives anew in a country that is not their own by birthright. Some are gifted with itchy feet and a lust for adventure – they abandon their homeland to satisfy their curiosity about the wide world beyond. Some are fortunate enough to happen upon a foreign place that touches their soul or to bond with a person who makes the prospect of migration more attractive than a life lived at home without the other. And some are forced to emigrate because their native place has nothing substantial to offer them in life.

Most of us who left Ireland during the 1980s fell into the third category. We went away not because we had itchy feet, had found our Eldorado or fallen in love with an exotic foreigner, but because Ireland had nothing to offer us. No jobs, no opportunities, no scope to follow our dreams or aspire to even a modicum of success in life. The Irish economy was broken and it would take a miracle to fix it.

Along with the dismal state of the nation’s finances, there was a sense that whatever wealth existed was hoarded greedily by a coterie of well-connected professionals, wide boys and golden circles. The land of our birth offered us nothing but tacit encouragement to leave. Brian Lenihan snr, the father of our current Minister for Finance, put it succinctly when he said: “Sure we can’t all live on a small island.”

Emigration was expected of us and so, forlorn and abandoned, we departed. We overcame our grief, our disappointment, our homesickness, our longing for the day-to-day company of our families and friends.

We settled and went about the business of building new lives for ourselves in our homes away from home. We didn’t expect to live in Ireland again.

Then, after a decade or so of exile, a sequence of remarkable events conspired to persuade us that maybe miracles can happen after all. We watched agog as Ireland underwent an awesome transformation. The country transmogrified from an impoverished backwater racked by unemployment and a culture of despair into the epitome of cool and a clamorous hothouse of self-indulgent affluence.

U2 became the biggest rock’n’roll band in the world and, unlike previous Irish rock stars such as Van Morrison, Thin Lizzy, Rory Gallagher and the Boomtown Rats, who all invariably moved to London at the first taste of success, they stayed in Dublin.

Jim Sheridan and Neil Jordan directed world-class movies that won Oscars and they stayed in Ireland instead of moving to Hollywood. Alan Parker made a movie of The Commitmentsand Roddy Doyle bestrode the world of literature, won the Booker Prize and didn’t move to Paris or New York.

By virtue of Michael Flatley’s dazzling footwork, Riverdancecreated a sensation in theatres throughout the world and Flatley actually moved to Ireland.

The IRA declared a ceasefire and the country was at peace, albeit tentatively so. Michael D Higgins served as minister for arts, culture and the Gaeltacht. A poet in Cabinet, for God’s sake – it was like 1916 all over again.

Tribunals were exposing corruption in a host of establishment institutions and there was much heady talk of a brave new world of openness, honesty, transparency and ethics in public life.

Hope peeped out from under the carpet.

Mary Robinson, a principled, liberal woman, won the presidency and put a candle in the window of her residence in the Phoenix Park as a beacon of light and a welcome home to the children of the diaspora. For us, this was a revolutionary act of sensitivity unprecedented in the country’s history.

US multinationals flocked to Ireland to invest their money and gain a toehold in Europe, and the eponymous Celtic Tiger was born. Money talked the talk and Ireland quickly learned to walk the walk. There was full employment. We went home on holidays and we shook our heads in bemusement at the profusion of “Help Wanted” signs in shop windows.

The Irish government sent emissaries throughout the diaspora, asking us to come home and take our place in the new Ireland. They promised jobs, prosperity, vindication and a proud place in a proud new Ireland. And we, poor fools, chose to believe them. How could we have refused, we who had, for years, deep inside ourselves, wondered what life might have been like if we’d been able to stay home?

We dared to believe, stifled our doubts, bought into the new zeitgeist and gave up the lives we had so carefully and painfully constructed. We sold our houses, packed our furniture into containers, uprooted our families and came back to Ireland.

Things were good at first. We found jobs that paid well. So what if the houses cost a fortune – all our savings went into the deposit and we still had to borrow a small fortune – weren’t the universities free for our kids and won’t they have a wonderful life without the shadow of emigration hanging over their heads? And weren’t the old-age pensions going up? And wasn’t this a grand new country after all its troubles?

We blinked when we saw the old and infirm racked up like refugees on trolleys in hospital waiting rooms, enduring conditions that would be embarrassing in the developing world.

We baulked when we saw the subversion of progressive initiatives like the Freedom of Information Act and the Equality Agency.

We gaped in disbelief as successive ministers for finance behaved like lumpen proletariat lottery winners, squandered billions of euro in budget surpluses and pumped up inflation – had they no mothers, we wondered, to instill in them the good sense of saving for a rainy day?

We were overwhelmed with dejected deja vu when our taoiseach tied himself up in verbal knots trying to explain his ill-gotten gains at the Mahon tribunal. And we wept in despair when, in the face of his chicanery, the people re-elected him.

But the final nail was hammered into the coffin of our disenchantment when the financial crash came and the Government’s first instinct was to make the poorest and most vulnerable sectors of society pay for its mistakes.

We finally had to admit to ourselves that the golden circles hadn’t gone away, they’d just put on new coats.

Now here we are, utterly faithless in the disposition of our elected politicians, plagued with anxiety and insecurity, one job-loss away from ruin.

Our savings are gone and our houses are virtually worthless. Our children face a bleak future and the heart-rending prospect of forced emigration.

We made a terrible mistake. We came back. Because we wanted to, we believed that the country had changed.

We believed in the miracle.

We believed in the politicians.

In the electorate.

We were wrong.

Never again.

Brendan Landers is a Dublin-born freelance writer and journalist. His first novel, Milo Devine, was published by Poolbeg Press in 2001. From 1974 to 1981. he worked in Dublin as a bus conductor for CIÉ. In 1984, he went to Canada where he was publisher/managing editor of Ireland’s Eye, a magazine for Irish-Canadians, and also editor of the Irish Canada News, a Toronto-based monthly newspaper. In 2000, he returned to Dublin. He is married and the father of a young boy. His website is

© 2009 The Irish Times

Friday, February 06, 2009

Sign of the times in Cork

John Hickey, who returned from the U.S. to look for work. Irish Times

The Truth on Immigration: Niall O'Dowd

Irish Voice February 9

Chances for comprehensive immigration reform in the new Congress seem pretty bleak just a few weeks into the term.

Republicans in the House showed in their unanimous opposition to the Obama stimulus package that they will vote their own parochial interests rather than those of the country.

The fact is that the Republicans left in the House are the hard core who come from right wing constituencies where immigration reform is about as popular as skunk invasions.

If they agree all together to oppose the stimulus package then they will certainly band together against comprehensive reform.

If you have any doubts on that issue, consider the words of new Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele on Fox News last Sunday when he was asked whether Republicans were ready to move towards immigration reform.

Given that the Republican vote among Hispanics fell 13% in the last election, you would assume that the party would want to pay more attention to this critical constituency.

Only in the world of George Orwell and the Big Lie would Steele's response to the following question posed by Chris Wallace on Fox News constitute a change in policy.

Wallace: Does the GOP need to change its position on immigration reform, guest workers, path to citizenship, to reach out and say to Hispanics, "You have a home in the Republican Party?"

Steele: No. Well, I think the GOP's position on immigration is very much the position of many, many Hispanics who are in this country.

Wallace: Wait. Is the GOP position the position of George Bush and John McCain, which is for immigration reform, or ... or is it the position that was build the fence?

Steele: The GOP's position is secure our borders first. Let us know and let us make sure the American people know that we've taken care of the important business of dealing with illegal immigration into this country.

You cannot begin to address the concerns of the people who are already here unless and until you have made certain that no more are coming in behind them.

Wallace: So no change in the position of the party.

Steele: No change in the position on the party on that.

Steele's contention that Hispanics agree with the GOP position has to be one of the most blatant mistruths in this political season.

Given that reality, it is high time the comprehensive immigration lobby starting looking at a different way to get the job done.

It is clear that the omnibus, one size fits all approach which attracts such Republican ire will not pass. A piecemeal solution where various aspects of the issue are addressed in much less stormy conditions seems the only way forward.

In such a strategy, issues such as the Dream Act, which allows young men and women who came here as children and have no other country to go back to, should be given priority.

It is quite likely that farm worker groups will also manage to pass something that allows big agriculture to hire laborers from Mexico and elsewhere legally when they are needed.

In such an environment it will be every interest group for themselves. We in the Irish community must be prepared for that.

The E-3 Australian visa program, which allows 10,000 a year to come from Australia and renew their visas every two years, is one way forward. The hope is that the undocumented could avail of such a program if they returned home to apply for the visas, and were no longer undocumented when they did so.

It is a tough lift, but nevertheless it can be accomplished. There are some other options too, but unless we approach this debate in a forthright and clear manner we will fail to learn the lessons of last year's bitter loss on immigration reform.

As stories of many more Irish coming here fleeing hard times in Ireland again begin to percolate, we must make a major new effort to ensure our community is able to make their case too, along with everyone else in the great immigration debate.

Time to repair Irish American immigration mess

Irish Echo, February 4, 2009 The time has arrived to repair the "mess" that has been Irish immigration to the U.S. over the past forty years, Bart Murphy, a leading advocate of visas for the Irish, said this week.

In a statement, San Francisco-based Murphy said that while comprehensive immigration reform would be welcome, the "best hope of fixing this issue" lay in a bilateral immigrant visa deal between the U.S. and Ireland.

Murphy has been outspoken in the past on what he sees as failures on the part of government in both countries to regularize Irish immigration to America.

He serves on the board of directors of the San Francisco Irish Immigration and Pastoral Center, is past president and a member of the board of the national Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers, and also sits on the advisory board of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform.

In his statement, Murphy noted that Ireland was "bananas" over President Barack Obama.

"The pasts and futures of Ireland and America are intertwined, and on so many different levels. So intertwined that it is interesting to ponder the irony that if today's restrictive anti-Irish immigration laws were in place in 1850, Falmouth Kearney, Barack's great, great grandfather, would never have left Moneygall for Ohio and the United States would not now have its first Irish-African-American president," Murphy said.

But with Obama's election, Murphy stated, it was time "to renew the effort to solve this puzzle, not just on a 'once-off' basis as before, but to create a sustainable and long term solution."

Of comprehensive immigration reform, Murphy opined that with increasing U.S. unemployment and an economy in tatters, there may be little political appetite in Washington "to legalize an army of undocumented workers to compete with the already unemployed."

Murphy, in his statement, was dismissive of the recently expanded J1 visa program which allows up to 20,000 Irish college students and recent graduates to gain work experience in the U.S.

"The visa is for a period of only one year and cannot be renewed. The J1 visa is widely viewed as too restrictive, unwieldy and of absolutely no use to the Irish undocumented. Although of some temporary benefit to a few, it is not a viable solution to the Irish-U.S. immigration issue and it is intellectually dishonest to hold it out as such." Murphy said.

The best hope of "fixing this issue once and for all," he said, would be the successful negotiation of a bilateral treaty visa between Ireland and the U.S. along the lines of the Australian E3 visa that dates back to 2005.

"It is precisely here that the Irish government, through the department of foreign affairs and its embassy in Washington, needs to prioritize its efforts," Murphy stated.

"The Australian model creates a dedicated category of 10,500 work visas per annum with spouses and children not counted against the cap.

"The visa lasts for two years duration but is renewable indefinitely. Whilst it may or may not be of direct benefit to the undocumented Irish (rabbits have been pulled out of the hat before), it does provide a sensible and sustainable path forward."

Murphy said that the system of Irish immigration to the U.S. has been broken since 1965.

"For over forty four years," he said, "it has been nothing short of a haphazard, sporadic mess that, every now and then, has been temporarily tidied up by once-off fixes such as the Donnelly and Morrison visa programs."

As laudable as comprehensive reform might be, he argued, it too would be just a one-time fix.

"Even if it comes to pass, it is no substitute for a proper and sustainable system of Irish-U.S. migration. Successful negotiation of an Irish E3 visa is the way forward. Let us hope our leaders in Ireland and the U.S. have the conviction and moral courage to push for change, to fix an old, broken system and truly embrace the history and accomplishments of our two countries," he concluded.

It was Murphy who led the angry response last year to remarks made by then taoiseach Bertie Ahern who, on his St. Patrick's Day visit to Washington, poured cold water on prospects of visas for the undocumented Irish while suggesting that they might want to think about packing their bags and returning to Ireland.

Said Ahern: "The concept of an amnesty, wiping the sheet clean, is just not on. They are talking from a position of sitting in the bar, and talking nonsense."

Ahern's words prompted the angry riposte from Murphy.

"With these comments made whilst standing on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C. on Saint Patrick's afternoon and with all the subtlety of a head-butt, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern turned his government's back on supporting recent proposals put forward by the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform for a U.S.-Ireland bilateral visa program," was the lead line in an op-ed penned by Murphy and published in the Irish Echo.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Why deporting taxpayes makes no sense

This has got to be one of the daftest ideas ever, for many reasons, but given that U.S. Treasury needs every penny it can get at the moment, this seems downright perverse.

Colorado D.A. Ken Buck is going after the tax record of "illegal immigrants" in a bid to get them deported.

So now the U.S. Government is going to spend millions of dollars (which it can't afford to) on deporting people who are sending it billions of dollars?

As The New York Times reports today;
The campaign is causing concern at the I.R.S., which says illegal immigrants paid almost $50 billion in taxes from 1996 to 2003, and among immigrants’ rights groups, which call the operation a thinly disguised attempt to root out illegal immigrants.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Anonymous comments

"Voices" can not reply to people who leave anonymous comments because we don't have an email address to reply to! However, you can call Kelly Fincham at 718 598 7530 or email kfincham AT irishlobbyusa DOT org

Heading to the exits in Ireland

The rush of people heading to the exits in Ireland continues unabated. The Irish Times reports that "12,790 working holiday visas were granted in the last six months of 2008 by the Australian department of immigration and citizenship, up 52 per cent on the same period of 2007."

Coming back from Ireland last week I noticed that the flight was full and that 80 per cent of the passengers were under 30. Where were they all going?

The pity of it all is that the Australian working visa offers the Irish a way into the legal immigration system. Unfortunately, as we all know to our cost, there is no such pathway for the Irish in America. America's loss - never mind Ireland's loss - will truly be Australia's gain.

Friday, January 23, 2009

ILIR back at work for immigration reform

The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) is gearing up for a new campaign on behalf of legal access for Irish immigrants to the US.

The ILIR will be returning to Washington next month for meetings with members of Congress who hold senior positions in the committees overseeing immigration reform.

Chairman Niall O'Dowd and Vice-Chairman Ciaran Staunton both attended the inauguration of President Barack Obama in Washington and held several meetings with key members of the new administration as well as the powerful Friends of Ireland in Congress.

They reported that there is a new consensus at both the Senate and House level to move forward on immigration reform over the next 12 months.

In addition, ILIR lobbyist Bruce Morrison and Irish American Democrats President Stella O'Leary have met with the Obama administration on the issue.

Working Holiday Visa Operational

The new Irish Intern Work and Travel Program is now operational. Irish college students or recent graduates can submit their applications now for visas that will allow them to live and work in the US for a year. Information on this program can be found at or at

If you have any questions on the new working holiday visa in the US, please contact Peggy Comfrey, Director of International Programs, on (001)617-542-1900 ext. 14 or, or Ann Marie Byrne 617-542-7654 ext. 16 or

If you have applied for this visa, please let us know how you get on with this process; email us or post a comment on this post...

Immigration on agenda for Obama

Immigration is already one of the key issues on the agenda for President Barack Obama and he has underlined that commitment by naming a number of seasoned immigration advocates to senior posts.

Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano - who has spoken out in support of comprehensive immigration reform - will be the Secretary of Homeland Security. Her role will include overseeing the various immigration agencies that are part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Meanwhile, Cecilia Muñoz, our former colleague in the Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform has been named to a top post in the White House itself. Ms Muñoz - a veteran immigration campaigner - has been named Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for the White House. Ms. Muñoz was most recently vice-president at NCLR (National Council of La Raza), and was a long-time member of the National Immigration Forum's Board of Directors.

In addition, ILIR supporter Senator Hilary Clinton (D-NY) is the new Secretary of State, and Eric Holder, former Deputy Attorney General under President Clinton, will be Attorney General.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Immigration reform cannot wait

By Maria Elena Salinas/Commentary Santa Maria Times

It will be a historic moment, without a doubt. On Tuesday, Jan. 20, the entire world will have its attention focused on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to witness the inauguration of the first black president. Not just because of the historic nature of the event, but because so many people are in desperate need of change. There are high hopes for what Barack Obama will bring to the presidency, to the country and to the world. And everyone seems to have a different list of priorities. For Latinos, it’s immigration reform.

Obama has said he will work to have an immigration-reform bill in place in the first year of his administration, but proponents of an overhaul cannot wait that long. A group of Latino evangelical groups took over a section of the Capitol Jan. 7 and literally prayed for immigration reform in the first 100 days of the new administration.

“We marched, we voted and now we want Obama to keep his promise and give us an immigration reform,” said Rafael Guevara of CONLAMIC, the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders.

Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez won’t wait even 100 days. He says he is ready to introduce new immigration legislation on the very same day Obama takes the oath of office, expressing concern that the president-elect and his transition team are not giving the issue the importance it deserves.

Gutierrez says he does not get the impression that there is a sense of urgency on the matter, since there has been no word from Obama on the possibility of an executive order to stop the immigration raids. “They do not understand how every day our community is being destroyed. Waiting until the end of the year will mean that tens of thousands will be separated from their families,” he claims.

There are not many details on what his proposal will include or how it will be different from the Kennedy/McCain Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill that failed to pass Congress in 2007. The only thing he has said is that it will include a path to the legalization of undocumented immigrants and the reunification of families, and that it will attempt to speed up the process of obtaining a visa.

The sense of urgency for immigration reform became even more evident when Attorney General Michael Mukasey made the surprising announcement that immigrants who are in the middle of deportation proceedings, including those who are seeking asylum, will no longer have the right to reopen their cases because of mistakes made by attorneys who represented them in the past.

The decision drew strong criticism from immigration advocacy groups. The American Immigration Law Foundation condemned the action, calling it an assault on constitutional principles and accusing the attorney general of reversing years of legal precedent. are outraged by this action,“ said Nadine Wettstein, director of AILF’s Legal Action Center in a press release. ”With this ruling, the administration is attempting to undermine an immigrant’s right to a fair hearing on whether he or she should be thrown out of the country.“

The ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project called the decision a dangerous move away from the U.S. tradition of fairness and due process. ”This order will have a tremendous negative impact on countless people who will be deported simply because they had the bad luck to be represented by the wrong immigration attorney,“ said Deputy Director Lee Gelernt.

Less than two weeks before the end of the Bush administration, this certainly is not good news for immigrants and those who defend their rights. It’s been a tough eight years that began to go downhill for immigrants after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Since then, immigrants, particularly Latino immigrants, have unfairly been treated as criminals.

Barack Obama will have the weight of the world on his shoulders upon taking the oath of office. He is inheriting monumental problems in the U.S. and abroad. The livelihood of millions of innocent immigrants who come to this country to make a better life for themselves and their families, and contribute to our country’s well-being with their hard work, should also be on his list of priorities.

Maria Elena Salinas can be reached at

January 12, 2009

A Sense of Who We Are

January 13, 2009
Editorial, The New York Times

A scene from the last days of the Bush administration: On a snowy afternoon last weekend, a church in New York City is filled to bursting with more than 1,000 people. Parents holding babies, teenagers, old men and women with heavy coats and canes. They murmur and shout in prayer, a keyboard and guitar carrying their voices to the height of the vaulted ceiling.

The music has a deafening buoyancy, but as congregants step forward to speak, their testimony is heavy with foreboding and sorrow. They tell of families terrorized and split apart.

A young woman from Pakistan describes humiliating conditions at a detention center in Elizabeth, N.J., where she was sent with her mother and ailing father. A mother tells of her son, an Army sergeant and citizen, losing his wife to deportation. A Mexican man, with theatrical defiance, waves a shoe at the unnamed forces that have thwarted his desire to legalize.

It is hard to appear sinister in a church, and the congregation at Iglesia La Sinagoga, a center of Pentecostalism on 125th Street in East Harlem, seemed utterly ordinary. But as undocumented immigrants and their loved ones, they are the main targets of the Bush administration’s immigration war.

Families like theirs have endured a relentless campaign of intimidation and expulsion, organized at the top levels of the federal government and haphazardly delegated to state and local governments.

The campaign has been disproportionate and cruel. The evidence is everywhere.

On Monday, The Times reported that federal immigration prosecutions had soared in the last five years, overloading federal courts with misdemeanor cases of illegal border crossers, who are tried and sentenced in groups of 40 to 60 for efficiency. At the same time, prosecutions for weapons, organized crime, public corruption and drugs have plummeted. The Arizona attorney general called the situation “a national abdication by the Justice Department.”

And last week, Attorney General Michael Mukasey, in an appalling last-minute ruling, declared that immigrants do not have the constitutional right to a lawyer in a deportation hearing and thus have no right to appeal on the grounds of bad legal representation. Mr. Mukasey overturned a decades-old practice designed to ensure robust constitutional protection for immigrants — one needed now more than ever in the days of the Bush administration’s assembly-line prosecutions.

The event at the Pentecostal church was organized by local ministers and Democratic politicians to spur the cause of immigration reform this year.

It could be a difficult case to make. We heard far too little about the need for immigration reform from President-elect Barack Obama during the general election — and virtually nothing from the nation’s leaders since then. But the United States cannot afford to put immigration on a back burner and merely continue with the existing enforcement regime. The costs are too high for the country’s values. And they are too high for the economy.

Defending immigrants’ rights defends standards in all workplaces. Workers who are terrorized into submission, in families that are destroyed by deportation and raids, are more likely to undercut other workers by tolerating low pay and miserable job conditions.

Restoring proportionality and good sense to the criminal justice system also would free up resources for fighting serious crimes. Most important, repairing a system warped by political priorities into hunting down and punishing the wrong people — like those bringing their suffering to a Pentecostal church — would help restore a sense of what the country stands for, and remind us of who we are.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Driving for sense in New Jersey?

N.J. May Consider Driving Privileges for Immigrants

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- A panel advising Governor Jon Corzine on immigrant issues is considering recommending the state allow undocumented immigrants "driver privilege cards'' and in-state college tuition rates.

Two Hispanic leaders have told the Record of Bergen County that the state's public advocate, Ron Chen, told them the measures would be included in a panel's report to Corzine.

But a spokeswoman for Chen told the newspaper that it hasn't been decided what would be included in the report.

The "driver privilege cards'' and in-state tuition would need legislative approval before becoming law. Groups that support tighter immigration control have said they'd oppose the measures.

Corzine assembled a panel on immigrant rights with the idea of passing comprehensive immigration reform.