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.