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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:

    Irish Immigration Center celebrates 20th anniversary

    Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

    The Irish Immigration Center is celebrating its twentieth anniversary as a provider of services to the immigrant community in Boston – marking the occasion with a dinner attended by President Mary McAleese.

    The organisation was started in 1989 by a group of Irish immigrants; at the time, there were thousands of undocumented in the city. The organisation today serves immigrants from 100 countries every year and offers not only help with immigration and citizenship queries, but also runs substance abuse and counselling programmes, preventive health care programmes, English as a Second Language classes, and exchange programmes between the United States and Ireland.

    The Solas dinner will be held on 27 May at the Copley Hotel; the organisation will honour President Mary McAleese with the Solas Award at the event.

    Related web pages:

    Ringsend native publishes memoir on American life

    Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

    Angeline Kearns Blain, a woman raised in 1950s Ringsend who today is an adjunct professor of sociology at Boise State University in Idaho, has published a memoir. “I used to be Irish” is being lauded by critics for its insight into a story too little told: the experience of Irish women emigrants.

    Angeline Kearns Blain left Ireland at the age of 18 in 1957 to become the wife of an American soldier she had met at a Dublin bus-stop.  The streetwise young woman had been consciously focusing on Americans as romantic targets in order to escape her working-class life as a cinema ice-cream seller. After settling in New England with her conservative, Protestant husband, she eventually settles in Idaho Falls where her husband gets a job at a government nuclear research facility. She would suffer a nervous breakdown and a marital breakup before turning to education and a career in academia.

    The Irish Independent says “Her memoir is extraordinary, told with blunt honesty and scathing with. It’s a long way from the flats in Ringsend to being a professor at an American university”.

    The Irish Times review notes the subversive nature of Kearns Blain’s story:

    I Used To Be Irish exposes both the gender and class fault-lines not traditionally attended to in accounts of emigration: Kearns Blain’s overtures to a fellow Dublin woman emigrant marooned alongside her in a backwater town are spurned when the Loreto College graduate in question discovers that Angeline left school at 14 to scavenge dumps. The memoir upends the popular image of the Irish emigrant, that of the raw country boy pining for rural simplicity in a debauched foreign land: Kearns Blain is a streetwise Dubliner who knows enough about American popular culture to initially act the pure Irish colleen to beguile her GI, a teetotaller Puritan who later winces each time Angeline lets slip some obscene Dublin colloquialism or orders a shot of whiskey.

    Angeline Kearns Blain has also written a memoir of her Dublin childhood, called “Stealing Sunlight”.

    See related web pages:

    Emigrated between 1975 and 1995? Researcher seeks you

    Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

    I’ve had a request from a graduate student seeking information from Irish people who emigrated to the US between 1975 and 1995.  Here is the information:

    Survey for Irish emigrants to the United States between 1975 and 1995

    Thank you for taking the time to do this survey; it will be an invaluable source for my term paper.

    I am collecting these surveys only for use on my term paper for Alan Kraut’s spring 2009 Immigration and Ethnicity class at American University in Washington D.C. They will not be used for any other purpose and at no point will the name of the respondent be associated with their response. Feel free to skip any question you do not feel comfortable answering, or email for a clarification at

    If at all possible please return your survey to me via email (an attachment, or in the body of the email either is fine) by April 4, 2009.

    Once again thank you very much for taking the time to do this survey

    Emma Lang

    Basic Information

    Age at time of emigration:


    Education level at time of emigration:

    Year of emigration:

    Did you come to the U.S. legally and/or did you obtain a visa either before or after you arrived?

    Number of years spent in the United States (please note here if you have settled permanently in the U.S.):

    Hometown and county in Ireland:

    Destination in the United States (If possible if you moved to a large city please tell me what neighborhood or area):

    If you lived in multiple cities in North America between when you emigrated and 1995 please list them here:

    On average how many times a year did you go back to Ireland (I know this is a complicated question due to the rapidly changing visa policies so you are welcome to give an explanation)

    Your story

    (please feel free to write as much as you want in response to these questions, since I’m not surveying a statistically significant number of folks I really just want your stories so I can understand the what it was like to move from Ireland to the United States during this time period)

    Why did you decide to emigrate and why did you choose the United States as your destination?

    What types of jobs did you work at between your arrival and 1995?

    Did you connect up with family or friends already living in the United States? If so, how long had they been living in U.S.?

    Did you join or participate in events of any Irish organizations such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians or county organizations or other groups (including the church or sports teams)?

    Did you join or participate in events of organizations aimed at new immigrants such as the Irish Immigrant Reform Movement (IIRM) or groups aimed at helping to adjust to live in America?

    How would you describe your relationship with the Irish American Community? If you are still living in the United States has the answer changed?

    Anything else you think I should know or be sure to include in my paper?

    Mystery of immigrants’ mass grave may be solved

    Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

    The mass grave of a group of Irish railroad workers who died in 1832 during a cholera outbreak may have been located at last, thanks to the efforts of researchers in Pennsylvania who have spent six years searching.

    The 57 men had arrived from Derry, Donegal, and Tyrone, hired by fellow Irishman Philip Duffy to build the railway. They were all dead within six weeks, felled by a cholera outbreak – and researchers believe some men may have been murdered. Their families were never notified, and the men would have been forever forgotten had Immaculata University professor William Watson and his historian brother Frank not discovered a mention of the deaths in a file owned by their late grandfather, a former railway worker.

    The men were believed to have been buried somewhere in Duffy’s Cut, an area near Philadelphia, but the exact location of their remains was unknown until a team led by the Walsh brothers and professors at Immaculata University began a search in 2003.

    It wasn’t until last week that the team discovered human remains. Researchers are now hoping to match DNA recovered from the bodies with that of families in Ireland in order to identify the remains and re-bury them in Ireland. They have used ships passenger lists to discover fifteen of the 57 men’s names.

    News of the find has been widely reported in the US.  The men’s story has been told in a film, “The Ghosts of Duffy’s Cut”,  which is available on the Duffy’s Cut project website.

    Related webpages:

    ITLG founder calls for high-level outreach to Irish abroad

    Friday, March 20th, 2009

    A group of high-level Irish representatives should be gathered to reach out to the Irish diaspora to assist in economic development, says an Irish-American founder of the San Francisco-based Irish Technology Leadership Group.

    Tom McEnery, a former mayor of San Jose, is quoted in the Sunday Business Post as saying,

    It is now time to assemble the best and most significant Irish representatives – like President McAleese, key government and Enterprise Ireland people, U2, Seamus Heaney and the Abbey players as well as certain chief executives – to help Ireland in these tough times.

    If these representatves reached out to successful second- and third-generation Irish around the world, then a rich vein of relationships that could achieve real results would be initiated.

    McEnry said that the focus of Irish outreach efforts needs to shift from the traditional centres of Irish-American power:

    Politicians need to make more visits to Silicon Valley, where there are 700,000 technology workers – and less to Washington, New York and Chicago.

    Silicon Valley is successsful because of the Californian government’s investment in universities, the development of a proper transport network via public-private partnerships, and the availability of capital to support enterprise ventures.

    Ireland has good universities, but it hasn’t achieved the others to the extent that is needed, and that is where the focus needs to be now. Ireland has come a long way in the last 20 years, and everything that can be done now to sustain that must be done.

    Related websites:
    Sunday Business Post: Irish diaspora must be tapped for support

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