By Ray O'Hanlon firstname.lastname@example.org
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.