Organizers of the event, held at Galvin’s bar and restaurant on the city’s Northwest side, said they would be supporting what is expected to be a month-long intensive campaign ahead of the U.S. Senate’s debate on immigration reform.
That debate is expected to take place in late March.
“This campaign is really going to be won by the folks on the ground,” said the Rev. Michael Leonard of the city’s Irish immigration center.
Committee members from the recently formed Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform addressed the crowd and urged all attendees to take the time to contact senators and state representatives.
“There seems to be people coming out of the woodwork,” Leonard said. “The number of people showing up and coming on board is increasing.”
News about the city’s immigration reform movement has been spreading in the Irish community through word of mouth and local radio shows, according to Leonard.
“It’s a snowball effect,” said Brian, an undocumented man who traveled to Galvin’s from his home in Chicago’s Southern suburbs.
The organizers of the campaign said what emerges from the Senate hearings will be influenced greatly by the amount of pressure put on key personnel between now and then.
“At the end of the day it comes down to votes,” Brian said. “The more pressure on senators, the more important they will realize it is.”
CCIR announced at the meeting that it will take part in both the city’s upcoming St. Patrick’s Day parades, the one in Downtown and on the other on the South side of town.
Billy Lawless, a prominent businessman in Chicago, told the crowd at Thursday’s meeting to ask friends and relatives in Ireland to attend a meeting for immigration reform taking place in late February in Dublin.
“It is very important that the folks back home are brought in on this,” Lawless said.
The Rev. Brendan Curran, a parish priest in a predominantly Hispanic community said at the meeting that more than 50 percent of his parish was undocumented. He expressed a strong interest in joining with the Irish community to protest proposed stricter immigration laws.
The Irish Center’s Leonard welcomed the idea.
“We want to link in with what is going on in other communities and get them on board,” Leonard said.
It has also emerged that a three person Chicago-based Irish delegation met with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan on Friday to discuss the possibility of making it easier for undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses in the state.
Leonard, a member of the delegation, said that Madigan was supportive of the proposal. One proposal being considered would allow the undocumented in the state to get a driver’s license without a social security number.