By Ray O’Hanlon
President Clinton’s decision to back temporary restoration of immigration provision 245i has sparked a scramble by undocumented Irish immigrants hopeful for legal status in the U.S.
245i, a provision in the 1996 Immigration and Nationality Act, which Congress allowed to expire in 1998, allows an undocumented individual to seek permanent residence while remaining in the U.S.
The provision was included in a budget bill signed by the president just before Christmas, but its legal standing expires April 30.
However, many undocumented immigrants see a four-month window of opportunity too good to miss.
"The phone hasn’t stopped. We’ve had loads of calls on it," said Anne Marie Scanlon, deputy director of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center in Queens.
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Scanlon said that the number of calls was further confirmation of the view, held by EIIC and other immigrant-support groups, that the number of undocumented Irish in the U.S. has been rising in recent years and has particularly jumped in the last year.
"A lot of the new undocumented seem to be from Northern Ireland. Right now we’re working flat out to get as much information on the 245i restoration out there as quickly as possible," Scanlon said.
The EIIC is currently studying the exact legal ramifications of the temporary restoration and how it affects the undocumented.
The New York Immigration Coalition, meanwhile, said in a statement that under the rules of the temporary restoration, individuals must file an immigrant petition with the Immigration and Naturalization Service or a labor certification application with the Department of Labor by April 30 of this year.
Additionally, applicants must show that they were physically present in the U.S. on Dec. 21, 2000, the day President Clinton reactivated 245i.
According to the Coalition, a key factor for undocumented individuals hoping to benefit from 245i is the presence in the U.S. of a potential family sponsor. Another factor — one that comes even more into play if there is no family sponsor — is an employer willing to file an application on the individual’s behalf with the Department of Labor before the April 30 deadline.