Category: Archive

Digging In

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

And it was provided in abundance last Wednesday afternoon in a Washington D.C. hotel by some of the nation’s leading legislators.
The gathering, at the Holiday Inn on Capitol Hill, was a rally organized by the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform.
It followed a day of lobbying by ILIR members, many of them undocumented, in the office buildings of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
It also followed the move by House Republicans to long finger the process of reconciling the House immigration bill with a Senate measure that would include a path to legalization for the Irish and an estimated 11 million illegals of other nationalities.
Four members of the House, Jim McGovern, Riche Neal, Anthony Weiner and Joe Crowley, and three from the Senate, Ted Kennedy, Sam Brownback and John McCain, turned up for the rally in the hotel’s main conference room.
Two additional rooms had to be set aside as the occupancy limit for the main auditorium was a meager 250.
What the t-shirt clad campaigners heard over two hours was a mixture of hard reality and what was still potentially attainable down the road.
Senator Kennedy, a prime mover along with John McCain of the bipartisan Senate bill, was certain of ultimate victory.
“We’re going to win. I didn’t come to lose. I came to win. What about you?” Kennedy told his audience to loud cheers and clapping.
Kennedy accused anti-reform House members of following a misguided pathway.
The reform issue defined what America was about, he said.
“I’m going to fight for reform,” he loudly promised.
Responding to House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s plan for nationwide “field” committee hearings on the Senate bill, Rep. Jim McGovern said that no such hearings were needed.
“We don’t need more hearings but comprehensive immigration reform,” he said.
“We need to embrace what the Senate passed and get rid of the garbage that the House passed,” McGovern said.
“You are great people. We are lucky that you are here. You deserve an immigration bill and we’re going to fight until you get one.”
Rep. Anthony Weiner made the point that the U.S. could walk and chew gum at the same time, by which he meant that the nation’s borders could be secured even as qualifying undocumented immigrants working within those borders could be processed along the road to legalization.
Immigration law needed to catch up with the times, argued Weiner who leveled broadsides at GOP House members and leading critics of the Senate bill Tom Tancredo and Peter King.
ILIR chairman, Niall O’Dowd, also criticized Rep. King. Meetings with 87 legislators had been arranged in advance of the morning’s lobbying effort, he said. The only one who hadn’t turned up, he said, was Congressman King.
Rep. Richie Neal invoked President Bush who is supportive of the kind of reform that would include a path to earned legalization.
“President Bush is right about this issue,” the Massachusetts congressman said.
Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, a relative unknown to Irish audiences, became an instant favorite when he held up a t-shirt calling for legalization of the Irish.
Brownback came to the podium after a rousing rendition of the “Fields of Athenry” and immediately explained how he himself came from the fields of eastern Kansas.
“We all came here from somewhere. I want to encourage your fight,” said Brownback who urged all in the room to work within the political system in part by using media outlets such as talk radio and letters to editor pages.
“You’ve got to speak up. This country moves by public opinion,” he said.
Brownback, invoking the spirit of President Ronald Reagan, described America as a special nation with a special calling. If any walls were to be erected, he said, they should include doors.
Secure borders were necessary, Brownback stressed. He argued that amnesty for illegals contained in the 1986 reform bill had not worked on its own. Neither had enforcement alone, which had been the basis of the 1996 immigration bill.
It was only comprehensive reform that would work, he said.
“Help us move this across the line,” Brownback said to loud cheers.
Former New York Assemblyman John Dearie cautioned that the reform campaign was more a marathon than sprint.
He said that instead of the normal conference negotiations pitting two bills, “a phony insincere situation” had been created by opponents of reform.
Dearie said that he had no recollection of “field” hearings ever happening in place of a House/Senate conference.
“Our next step should be that whenever these phony baloney hearings are held, we should be there,” he said.
John McCain, already familiar to many in the room after his appearance at an ILIR rally in the Bronx in April, was warmed to his task by chants of “Ol

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese