Ahern said that the Irish government would continue to be “very active” as the reform debate progressed in Washington.
The next stage of that debate is the anticipated House/Senate conference phase in which supporters and opponents of relief for millions of illegal and undocumented immigrants are expected to clash sharply.
“This is a big issue for us,” Ahern said of the reform process.
Ahern said he wanted to acknowledge the role that President Bush was playing in the debate.
On the same day that Ahern was saying this in New York, Bush was urging Congress to pass a comprehensive reform bill that would include a path to legality for the illegal and undocumented.
“The difficulty of this task is no excuse for avoiding it,” the president said in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“The United States Congress needs to pass a comprehensive bill,” he stated.
Bush urged inclusion of a temporary worker program in any bill and also path to citizenship.
Whether the president sees such a program and this path being linked is not entirely clear.
Reform backers see the temporary work visa idea and the legal path for illegals and undocumented as being essentially separate.
The White House website goes into more detail on the president’s views, however.
It states in part: “President Bush opposes giving illegal immigrants an automatic path to citizenship because it would be unfair to those who are here lawfully, would compromise the rule of law, and would invite further waves of illegal immigration.
“The President supports increasing the annual number of green cards that can lead to citizenship, but for the sake of justice and security, the President is firmly opposed to amnesty.
“The President also believes that there are differences between an illegal immigrant who crossed the border recently and someone who has worked here for many years, and has a home, a family, and an otherwise clean record. Those who meet our conditions should be able to apply for citizenship but approval will not be automatic, and they will have to wait in line behind those who played by the rules and followed the law.”
Meanwhile, the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform is this week readying for the congressional conference phase with a series of rallies and meetings across the U.S.
The rallies are set to culminate with a National Day of Action in Washington on Wednesday, June 28. ILIR is hoping to pull together thousands of supporters in the capital on that day.
ILIR’s particular focus was now on members of the House of Representatives, according to the group’s executive director, Kelly Fincham.
The House resumed Tuesday after the Memorial Day recess and, like the Senate, is yet to name its conferees.