After a few last minute worries, the 105th Congress last week delivered tangible and welcome assistance to the continued quest for peace in Northern Ireland. And if it certainly was the case that every Democrat in the House and Senate voted in favor of the "Walsh Visas," it is equally evident that this measure was given its most vital nourishment by members of the Republican Party, not least Jim Walsh, Newt Gingrich, Al D’Amato, Spencer Abraham, Rep. Ben Gilman and even Lamar Smith, long viewed as a Lone Star bogeyman by Irish immigration advocates.
No, this bill does not provide greencards. But it is comforting evidence that both parties can put aside differences and varied concerns in the interests of peace and sound economic sense. Whatever about legitimate concerns over control of immigration numbers, it remains a verifiable truth that immigration remains a cornerstone of the nation’s economic health.
Elsewhere in this paper, there are instructions on how Irish applicants, on both sides of the border, can apply for diversity visas. These are more commonly known as "Schumer Visas," after Democrat Chuck Schumer, another champion of continued Irish access to the U.S. in the spirit of fellow Democrats such as Ted Kennedy and former representatives Bruce Morrison and Brian Donnelly.
With the Walsh Visas, the 105th Congress achieved a rare bipartisan rapprochement in its dying hours. This is good for Ireland and good for America. Visas, temporary or permanent, are not charitable handouts. They are, in effect, an agreement between a country and individual to both give and take in the interests of all. We hope that the Walsh and Schumer visas will continue to keep the golden door ajar for now and that, if future circumstance requires it, there will be other political leaders ready to take up the cause of continued Irish access to these still welcoming United States.