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  • US immigration reform

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    White House says immigration reform now “difficult”

    Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

    The White House acknowledged yesterday that immigration reform looks unlikely this year. Press secretary Robert Gibbs said, “I can see the president’s desire for it to happen, but understanding at the current – currently where we sit, the math makes that more difficult than – than the discussion”. Mr Gibbs said that Mr Obama hopes that “later this year that we can have the beginning of formal debate on that”.

    He added that Mr Obama “hopes that immigration reform will happen soon, but doesn’t have a crystal ball as to when that might happen”.

    Mr Gibbs’ comments follow Mr Obama’s comments on Thursday that he is “committed to passing comprehensive immigration reform as president of the United States”. He made the remarks at a prayer breakfast attended by Hispanic leaders. He also said:

    “The American people believe in immigration. But they also believe that we can’t tolerate a situation where people come to the United States in violation of the law – nor can we tolerate employers who exploit undocumented workers in order to drive down wages. And that’s why we’re taking steps to strengthen border security, and we must build on those efforts.

    “We must also clarify the status of millions who are here illegally, many who have put down roots. For those who wish to become citizens, we should require them to pay a penalty and pay taxes, learn English, go to the back of the line, behind those who played by the rules. That is the fair, practical and promising way forward. And that’s what I’m committed to passing as president of the United States.”

    Mr Obama will host a bipartisan meeting on the topic on Thursday – a meeting which has been twice postponed.  It has been widely reported that the president is prioritising health care reform and the economic crisis over immigration reform.

    Related websites:

    ILIR renews campaign as Obama gives mixed signals on reform

    Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

    The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform has resumed its campaign on behalf of the undocumented in the United States with a meeting outside Boston this week. More than 350 attended the meeting, which was held in the Irish Cultural Center in Canton.

    ILIR President Ciaran Staunton said, “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 spoke about the proposal to create a visa similar to the E-3 that was established in a deal between Australia and the US last year. Even if such a deal could be passed for Ireland, however, this visa would probably not assist the undocumented already living in the US.

    The Obama administration has given mixed signals on immigration reform in recent weeks. In March, President Obama told the Hispanic Immigration Caucus that he remained committed to comprehensive immigation reform; Obama had made a campaign pledge to address the issue in his first year in office. He said in March that he would initiate the process with a White House meeting this spring. However, Vice President Biden told a gathering of Central American leaders this month that the economy was an obstacle to immigration reform.

    “It’s difficult to tell a constituency while unemployment is rising, they’re losing their jobs and their homes, that what we should do is, in fact, legalize (illegal immigrants) and stop all deportation.”

    Related web pages:

    ILIR to hold series of meetings

    Monday, March 30th, 2009

    The New York-based Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform will be holding a series of meetings after a period of reorganisation. They report they will hold the first meeting in Boston at the Irish Cultural Centre in Boston on April 6 at 7:30 pm. Speakers will include Bruce Morison, ILIR chair Bart Murphy, vice-chair Ciaran Staunton and Executive Director Kelly Fincham.

    Bart Murphy, a San Francisco-based immigration advocate, recently took over the position of chair from Irish Voice publisher Niall O’Dowd.

    For more information, visit the ILIR blog.

    Stop misleading the undocumented, says Taoiseach

    Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

    The Irish Voice has published a statement from Taoiseach Bertie Ahern on the recent controversy over the campaign on behalf of the undocumented.

    The Irish Voice is the New York Irish-American newspaper published by Niall O’Dowd, a leading campaigner in the fight to legalise undocumented immigrants and one of the founders of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform. The ILIR has criticised statements by the Taoiseach last month that those campaigning for the undocumented were “sitting in the bar and talking nonsense”.  He also suggested that the Irish-American reformers were seeking ‘amnesty’, a claim the ILIR denies.

    In his statement, Taoiseach Ahern says that he will pay tribute to the Irish community in the US in his speech to Congress on April 30. He continues:

    In my address, I will also once again emphasize the government’s strong support for the undocumented Irish. In doing so, I will be making a further direct intervention on an issue to which, rightly and very willingly, I have given unprecedented priority during my time in office.

    I firmly believe that the government’s record on behalf of the undocumented and all our emigrants in the United States is second to none.

    The Taoiseach then outlines Government efforts on behalf of the undocumented, and notes that Congressional contacts have given the Government advice that “it will be exceptionally difficult to build the necessary political support for such a measure during the period of the presidential election campaign. We may not like this advice, but we cannot ignore it or wish it away.”

    The Taoiseach notes that no other country has secured a bilateral visa deal with the US that would be open to undocumented citizens.

    He adds, 

    The issue of the undocumented Irish has been a priority for this government not for any selfish reason or for political advantage — because there is little or none — but because we are committed to helping those of our citizens who have found themselves in this unfortunate position.

    Mr Ahern concluded his piece by stating, “We will continue to press the case for change and look forward to working with the many organisations in the US who have worked hard on behalf of the undocumented. We should and must work together”.

    Read the entire document on the Irish Voice website.

    The ILIR has issued a response, which is available on the Irish Voice website.

    CIIC responds to Taoiseach’s comments on US reform

    Monday, March 31st, 2008

     Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers in the United States has joined other US-based immigrant groups in criticising Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s recent comments about US immigration reform. The organisation is calling for the Irish government to continue its efforts to secure reform measures to benefit the undocumented Irish, who are reported to number between 20,000 to 50,000 among the twelve million undocumented in the US.

    The press statement in full:

    The Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers joined others in expressing frustration that there is no resolution in sight for undocumented immigrants in the US.  The failure of comprehensive immigration reform last year and the rancorous debate that continues on this issue has left the estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish immigrants more vulnerable that ever. The disappointment in Irish communities across the US is palpable after hearing the Taoiseach’s comments that indicate that the Irish Government has given up on any hope of reform that will benefit this segment of the Diaspora.

    The stereotype of committed Irish advocates as “sitting in bars and talking nonsense” is particularly offensive to all of us who have worked for years to improve the situation of Irish immigrants across the USA. Irish Centers provide a range of professional services to immigrants including immigration, employment, housing, and counseling. We are skilled professionals working hard to effect positive change and to dispel this characterization that has long plagued the Irish community at home and abroad.

    It is important to acknowledge the difficulty and complexity of the situation faced by immigrants who have lived here for many years. They left Ireland before the “Celtic Tiger”; they established themselves and built a life here. The option to uproot themselves and their families and return to Ireland is not realistic. Those who stay in the US are condemned to a life in the shadows, with few rights, as members of an underclass of 12 million undocumented immigrants. Those who go home, as the Taoiseach suggested, will set off a ten year bar which will affect them if they attempt to re-enter to visit family or to apply for any future legalization scheme.  Immigration centers are working to make sure that the undocumented immigrants understand their rights and responsibilities and to ensure that everyone is aware of the consequences of their choices.

    We cannot lose sight of the real problem, that the existing immigration system is broken. The Irish Government’s efforts to date to fashion a solution to this problem are much appreciated. The Coalition urges them to continue to work with groups in the US and to stand beside her citizens here to find a solution that is sensible and reasonable. The problem will not go away. Recent evidence from Irish centers indicates the opposite is true. New arrivals from Ireland are once again choosing the traditional path west to the USA. The last thing that we want to see is new generations of young undocumented immigrants joining those who came in the 1990’s.

    Last year the Irish community across the US united in their thousands under the banner of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform. In spite of a massive effort comprehensive immigration reform legislation did not pass. The CIIC encourages everyone to continue be outraged at the treatment of our fellow citizens and to work together against the injustice of the current system. We urge the Irish Government to put their shoulder to the wheel and stay the negotiating table until we get a resolution that will allow undocumented immigrants and their families to live here without fear.

    Visit the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers’ website.

    Dail calls for bilateral agreement on US undocumented

    Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

    TDs from all parties have united to call for a bilateral agreement between the US and Ireland to legalise the undocumented Irish in the US.

    The motion was proposed by Fine Gael. Fine Gael spokesperson on community, rural and Gaeltacht affairs Michael Ring said Ireland had a responsibility toward the undocumented, adding,

    “The situation facing undocumented Irish in the US has become more precarious since 9/11, with many of them unable to obtain driving licences, travel to or from Ireland, even at the most upsetting times when they need to attend a family funeral.”

    Minister for State for Foreign Affairs Michael Kitt said that the Government has said it would explore all possible alternative options in the event that comprehensive reform legislation, which would have provided a path to citizenship for all of the 11 million undocumented in the US, failed.

    Those options included reciprocal initiatives for young people, as well as non-immigrant visa exchanges between Ireland and the US.

    Some sources say, however, that there are difficulties that would prevent reciprocal work visas from covering the undocumented.

     Read the Dail debate on the website.

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