Category: Archive

ILIR anger

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Ahern poured cold water on hope of securing any relief for the undocumented until at least next year.
This view has been widely expressed but coming from the taoiseach it would appear to have an air of finality, at least in the eyes of ILIR.
At the same time, Ahern did not completely close the door on a renewed effort on behalf of the undocumented Irish.
“All of the main players and all our supporters in both Houses of Congress have made that clear to us since last year. We were very disappointed that efforts by the U.S. Congress to pass the comprehensive reform legislation were unsuccessful, because we had put a good deal of effort into that, as had members on all sides of this house.
“However, we are continuing to explore bilateral options to regularize the status of the majority of the thousands of undocumented Irish, particularly those who have been in the U.S. for many years, and to put in place an ordered system of legal migration from Ireland to the United States,” Ahern told D_il members.
“There are strong differences of opinion, even among our supporters and people who have been very helpful to us over the years. I believe many people have been persuaded of the need to provide future opportunities for Irish people to work and travel in the U.S. which would also be open to the undocumented.
“However, it will be extremely difficult to secure such an arrangement, given the nature of the immigration debate in Washington,” the taoiseach added.
ILIR vice chairman, Ciaran Staunton, told the Echo that his organization was wondering why the Irish government had not already asked the U.S. government for a bilateral visa deal that would facilitate Irish and U.S. citizens alike.
“The Irish government has closed the door on a bilateral. They have clearly walked away from the undocumented,” Staunton said.
“The taoiseach and the Irish government are saying you’re on your own but we’re going to keep at it on behalf of the undocumented Irish,” Staunton pledged.
Asked if Ahern’s words were not simply an acknowledgement of a present, harsh reality, Staunton’s response was terse.
“If they had based their decisions on reality most would not have come to America in the first place,” Staunton said with regard to the undocumented Irish.
ILIR, he said, would have to look at its relationship with an Irish government that, he said, had “no strategy” with regard to the undocumented.
An ILIR statement issued prior to Staunton’s comments said that the group
“respectfully disagrees” with Ahern’s comments to the Dail that the issue of relief for the Irish undocumented was dead until after the presidential election has passed.
“Over the past number of months the ILIR has met directly with senior political figures in Washington and Irish government representatives as well as with our lobbyist former Congressman Bruce Morrison who is a respected expert on immigration issues,” the statement from ILIR’s Kelly Fincham said.
“In the course of those discussions a realistic scenario, agreed by all the parties, on how to proceed was hammered out. It was our understanding that scenario was still being pursued but the taoiseach’s comments do not indicate that.
“Our focus in those discussions was creating a path for legal Irish immigration to America which undocumented Irish could apply for once they left the U.S. and were no longer illegal. The reason for this was to remove the issue from the current undocumented debate and create a much-needed pathway for legal
Irish immigration to America such as many other countries currently enjoy.
“We believe there is considerable merit in this approach with the proper effort by the Irish government and every other concerned group. We intend to continue on this path and hope the Irish government will continue to support us,” the statement said.
Taoiseach Ahern’s words also drew ridicule from opposition members. Fine Gael’s Michael Ring accused the government of turning its back on an estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish.
“Despite previously agreeing a motion with Fine Gael last November to seek a bilateral agreement on this issue which would benefit Irish and American citizens seeking to work and travel between and within the two countries the taoiseach has done nothing to move this forward.
“This motion attracted cross-party support, so the government is not fulfilling the wishes of the D_il either as it fails to deal with the plight of these Irish citizens,” Ring said.
He said a precedent existed in the form of a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and Australia that allowed 10,000 Australians to work in the U.S. annually while U.S. citizens were granted the same number of Australian visas in return.
“Given the strong economic ties between the island of Ireland and the
United States I believe that an agreement like this is the way forward,” Ring added.
“Bertie Ahern is traveling to the U.S. for St. Patrick’s Day. I would urge him to push for a resolution to this issue when he is there. The taoiseach is also due to address the U.S. Congress in April or May, another ideal opportunity for him to help the estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish in the United States.”
In separate D_il comments, Ring referred to the recent death in Boston of Galway native Eddie Treacy.
“(He) was sick with pneumonia, could not go to the authorities or the hospitals because he was afraid he would be identified and sent home. He was sent home, but the problem was he came home in a coffin. That is sad. These are our citizens whom we must protect,” Ring said.

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