Category: Archive

Echo Editorial: Countdown to reform

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

How well-disposed Capitol Hill legislators feel towards the Irish this year could be a critical factor in the debate over how to fix the nation’s broken immigration system.
If the debate veers too far towards security and control, the undocumented Irish will be teetering on the precipice.
And given the virtually zero chance that anyone in Ireland has of landing a legitimate visa, the combined effect of a control-dominated result from the debate will mean, a few years down the road, the virtual extinction of Irish America as we have known it for the better part of two centuries.
Hands up the politicians who want to take credit for that!
But if the debate goes too much in favor of opening America’s arms to the estimated 11 million undocumented and illegals already living and working within the nation’s borders, the risk is that the comprehensive reform argument will be lost in a chorus of nays.
Whatever happens as the debate takes firm form, possibly in February, maybe in March, the politicians who take a lead on this issue will be required to use all the political skills at their disposal to wrest a workable compromise from a political standoff that is about as divisive as they come.
That compromise must involve a path to earned legalization. Earned legalization is not a blanket amnesty, and any suggestion that it is should be vigorously rebutted from the start of the debate.
And yes, if that means that not every single undocumented or illegal will ultimately qualify for earned legalization, so be it.
But a significant number of them should.
A compromise should include a provision for temporary work visas that will be easier and quicker to secure by immigrants whose families desperately need the dollars earned in the United States.
By no means all those illegally in the country want to wait through a process of legalization that will involve significant hurdles and could take years to complete.
Any compromise will have to involve the better securing of our borders and more rigorous enforcement of laws aimed at those who, for example, try to avoid paying taxes, even if such a facility is offered in a compromise bill.
Any attempt to rub out the diversity visa lottery should be turned aside. If anything, it should be expended so as to further diversify the annual influx of legal immigrants from countries that have been adversely affected by the 1965 reform act and succeeding measures.
In sharp contrast to the 1980s and early ’90s, today’s Ireland is a mini-economic powerhouse.
And this turnaround is largely responsible for the dramatic fall in the number of young Irish seeking to embrace the American version of the prosperity dream.
But there are still more Irish who would want to give it a go in America than the diversity lottery now annually permits.
And there would be more again if the Irish economic miracle faltered.
The Irish haven’t gone away completely. This, we have to believe, is America’s gain.
Nobody is asking for a free lunch in this debate. All sides will have to come away from it feeling like a winner if anything workable is to be the result.
But the sooner the debate starts the better.
Hopefully it will be completed before the cherry blossoms banish this year’s allocation of kind thoughts about St. Patrick and the Irish on Capitol Hill.

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