Category: Archive

Cowen praises latest U.S. immigration proposal

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The bill, the Immigration Reform Act of 2004, has been drawn up by Sen. Chuck Hagel, the Republican from Nebraska. The Democratic co-sponsor of the Hagel bill is Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota.
Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, on a visit to Washington, D.C., last week, met with both Hagel and Daschle to discuss the prospects of reform favoring the Irish. Cowen said afterward that he welcomed the bill.
“I see it as a constructive effort to deal with the situation of the undocumented in the United States in a pragmatic and compassionate way,” Cowen said after meeting with the senators.
However, Cowen said that new immigration reform measures were unlikely to be passed by Congress any time soon.
“This year is going to be for building up support for the proposal,” Cowen said.
But he emphasized that he was “delighted” with the thrust of Hagel’s reform proposals.
“The government is working to develop the economy and create jobs so that Irish people need not emigrate out of economic necessity,” Cowen said. “However, we recognize that there will always be a level of emigration and that there will also be some people who require special help in relation to their status here in the United States.
“I am delighted to have this early opportunity to flag our concerns about the position of Irish immigrants in the U.S. We hope to see more benefits for our own emigrants who aren’t regularized yet.”
There had been expectations that Sen. Edward Kennedy would author a “nation neutral” immigration bill at the beginning of the year, but a congressional source indicated that Kennedy had left the compiling of the bill to Hagel and Daschle.
Kennedy has worked closely with both senators on immigration issues in the past.
The new bill now stands alongside another measure in the Senate penned by Republican Sen. John McCain as the leading edge of possible reform of U.S. immigration law.
The McCain bill mirrors a House of Representatives bill authored by Arizona GOP Reps. Jim Kolbe and Jeff Flake.
Both Senate bills go beyond recent proposals by President Bush to allow temporary worker status to undocumented immigrants.
Those proposals, when announced in January, were welcomed by minister Cowen. However, they were described by Sen. Kennedy as “woefully inadequate” and a package that fell far short of the kind of “serious reform” the country needed to fix a “broken immigration system.”
The two Senate bills differ mainly from the president’s proposals in that they include provisions that would allow the undocumented to secure green cards by means of a job-based “earned adjustment” process.
But the Hagel-Daschle measure goes “far beyond” the McCain bill in the scope of its earned-adjustment provisions, the Capitol Hill source said.
A key difference between the two is that under the Hagel-Daschle measure it will be possible to obtain a green card after one year of working under the bill’s earned-adjustment provisions.
The McCain measure requires a three-year period before the individual is eligible for legalization.
Both bills, and indeed President Bush’s proposals, are likely to be slowed considerably in their forward progress because this is a general election year covering the presidency, the entire 435-member House of Representatives and one third of the Senate.
Both bills are now before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
(Susan Garraty in Washington contributed to this report.)

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