Do I stay, or do I risk it and go?
Not a few undocumented Irish have chosen to take a pass on Christmas with their loved ones in Ireland in recent years.
The reason is simple enough. There is no guarantee of getting back into America, the country in which they’ve put down roots, which in not a few cases means they’ve formed relationships and are raising children.
This is as a result of the tougher border controls in the aftermath of 9/11 and against the backdrop of the war on terror.
Nobody has any real argument with enhanced border security, not even the undocumented. But the intent of beefed-up security is to protect America from those who would do the country harm.
The undocumented might be on the far side of immigration law, but almost to an individual they would stand up to defend America — a country in which they have a stake and would be happy to pledge loyalty to if given the opportunity — against a hostile threat.
The law, however, is something of a blunt instrument and is applied with equal rigor regardless of such individual intent.
With that in mind, many undocumented Irish will stay put for the holidays, and confine communication with families in Ireland to the exchange of greeting cards, gift packages, phone calls and emails.
Some have already indicated that their decision to stay in the U.S. has been effectively made, and this year, gladly, for a more positive reason than in years past.
It’s based on the belief that the incoming 110th Congress will be more determined to tackle the issue of comprehensive immigration reform than the outgoing 109th.
It’s thought that Democratic control of both Houses is good news for immigration reform advocates. The reality on the ground in the various electoral races might have been a little more complex, but few can deny that immigrant-bashing didn’t prove quite the 2006 vote winner that some hoped it would – nor that victories like that of Bob Casey, a supporter of comprehensive reform, over incumbent Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania weren’t a shot in the arm for the immigration cause.
So post-election optimism is high in immigrant communities, the Irish included. There is a fair amount of evidence to suggest that this might indeed turn out to be a more determined Congress and that a combination of forward thinking Democrats and Republicans and an amenable president might come up with a workable compromise.
But wouldn’t it be a good thing if some of the incoming members of the House and Senate were to deliver a little advance Christmas cheer in the form of encouraging words and statements of intent?
There’s no reason to wait for January. Any member of the House or Senate can say something now without necessarily giving the negotiating game away.
Yes, he or she can say: my colleagues and I will take on the reform issue early in the New Year and with all the energy and verve necessary to secure a successful and equitable result.
That would be quite a greeting card for the undocumented, especially those who have not seen their closest relatives, in some cases, for many years.
We await the encouraging words then, this year with a little more hope in the bank than 12 months ago.