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    Too early to give up immigration reform fight, NY Times says

    Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

    The New York Times has called for a renewed commitment to comprehensive immigration reform in the US in an editorial today. The editorial says that the US needs to confront the issue, with a solution that “would clamp down on the border and the workplace, streamline legal immigration and bring 12 million illegal immigrants out of the shadows”. It notes that the White House and Democratic leaders in Congress say they remain committed to comprehensive reform this year, despite “the poisonous stalemate on Capitol Hill”.

    Remarkably, it mentions the recent declaration by the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform that the issue is dead. From the editorial:

    At least one advocacy group, the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, has declared the dream of comprehensive reform dead. It is urging incremental change, with modest reforms like the Dream Act. Other groups may follow. It is too soon to give up.

    Some Irish activists have been criticised in the past for being too willing to look for a special solution that would assist the undocumented Irish with a separate solution. Yesterday, Niall O’Dowd, speaking on Pat Kenny’s RTE 1 radio show, said that he believed the only option was a series of piecemeal solutions. One that he mentioned was a  visa agreement between Ireland and the US similar to US agreements with Australia and Chile; this would give Irish people access to non-permanent visas, renewable every two years. While this would ensure continuing Irish access to the US, it’s a solution that would presumably be unavailable to the tens of thousands of Irish estimated to be in the US illegally right now.

    The New York Times adds that legislation in the house is being prepared by Representative Luis Gutierrez, and a similar bill for the Senate by Charles Schumer and Lindsay Graham.

    The Irish Echo seems to agree with the New York Times that there is life in the process yet. In last week’s edition, it said, “One source close to the legislative process admitted to what he called ‘a very challenging (legislative) environment’ but added that reports of reform’s demise were premature.”

    Here’s hoping  it’s too early to give up the fight.

    Related webpages:

    Taoiseach discusses US-Irish relations, immigration reform, North, economy with US delegation

    Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

    The Taoiseach held talks yesterday with the visiting US Congressional delegation led by Richie Neal, Chair of the Friends of Ireland.

    Also on the delegation are:

    • Rep Tim Murphy, from Pennsylvania
    • Rep Donald Payne, from New Jersey
    • Rep Luis Gutierrez, from Illinois
    • Rep Mike Doyle, from Pennsylvania
    • Rep Tim Holden, from Pennsylvania
    • Rep Nydia Velazquez, from NYC

    The Taoiseach’s press office said in a press release:

    The Taoiseach reiterated the priority he has placed on Ireland’s relationship with the United States and looked forward to the further development of that relationship with the implementation of the recommendations of Strategic Review of Ireland-US Relations which he launched on his St Patrick’s Day visit to the US. He stressed the importance of human interaction across the Atlantic and the need to develop all opportunities to enable Irish and US citizens to visit, work and study in each others countries.

    There was also a lengthy discussion of the prospects for immigration reform in the US and its implications for Irish citizens, including the Irish undocumented community (Reps. Gutierrez and Velazquez have been very active in the campaign for immigration reform and recently attended a bipartisan meeting with President Obama on the topic – see ).

    The Taoiseach briefed the delegation on recent progress in Northern Ireland. He particularly welcomed the announcements of loyalist decommissioning. There was a discussion on how the US can continue to make a contribution to the peace process, including by assisting with economic development and as a strong example of how a varied, multicultural society can integrate and work together for the greater good.

    There was also a discussion on the economic situation. The delegation updated the Taoiseach on the economic reform programme in the US, including tax refrom, while the Taoiseach responded by emphasising the Government’s strong commitment to supporting US businesses in Ireland and the transatlantic trading relationship.

    See the press release on the Taoiseach’s website.

    US Congressional delegation visits Ireland

    Monday, June 29th, 2009

    A US delegation of seven Democratic and one Republican Congressmen is visiting Ireland this week to hold talks with Irish political leaders on a number of topics. Items on the agenda include immigration reform, the political situation in the North, and the global financial crisis.

    The group is led by Congressman Richard Neal, chair of the Friends of Ireland Executive Committee in the US Congress, a bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives that promotes Irish interests and trade and cultural links.  They will meet with the Taoiseach and Tanaiste, opposition politicians, and the President during their week-long visit.

    An Oireachtas spokesman said:

    “During their visit the delegation will meet with key political leaders and examine issues such as the International Fund for Ireland, the case of the undocumented Irish in the US, the Northern Ireland Peace Agreement, Ireland-US relations and the World Financial Crisis.?

    There are six members of the Friends of Ireland Committee: Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner, and Richard Neal of the House of Representatives, and Edward Kennedy, Chris Dodd, and Susan Collins in the Senate.

    Related websites:

    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.

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