Category: Archive

ILIR returns to starting place, if not point

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The second part of the equation didn’t have to be explained in any great detail.
To those in the standing room only audience who attended the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform’s first public meeting in this same room three years and three months previously, the idea of restricted economic prospects was old hat.
If anything, the collapse of the Irish economy had simplified matters. There was no going back now, and all the chips were on the table for legalization in America.
“Most people who are here are staying here,” said Staunton.
“We’re not the generation that will pull up the ladder.”
The meeting at the popular bar and restaurant that first time in 2006 was to announce an Irish input into a broad-based campaign for comprehensive immigration reform directed at the Bush administration and legislators in Washington.
Three years of campaigning and hopes, both raised and dashed, have apparently done little to diminish the resolve of both the ILIR’s leaders or the group’s supporters.
Now there was hope reborn by dint of a new White House and Congress
So the big turnout at the meeting spoke of determination in grim times, if also more than a little grim determination.
Staunton, whose American story began with a Morrison visa, was given the task of warming up the crowd and of introducing the main speaker of the night, former congressman Bruce Morrison, who has been working for ILIR as a lobbyist and strategist since its founding in a Manhattan hotel in December, 2005
“Bruce,” said Staunton, had drawn up a document on the proposed E3 visa plan with the support of the Irish government.
He said that all would agree that the present generation of undocumented Irish should be the last one. America, he said, had more to gain from welcoming the undocumented Irish than by getting rid of them.
How that welcome mat might eventually unfold was explained by Morrison who lost no time in casting his listeners in the role of the kind of grassroots activists that ultimately get things done in Washington.
Getting things done would not be easy of course.
“This is hard work and it’s uphill,” he said to nods and murmurs of agreement.
While Morrison’s own name has long had positive associations with the Irish, the onetime Democratic representative from Connecticut highlighted two of today’s big political names as the new standard bearers for Irish aspirations.
They were Senator Charles Schumer, “a longtime friend” who was now at the center of power on Capitol Hill with regard to immigration reform.
The other name, and it might have surprised a few in the room, was that of New York’s Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who, said Morrison, was interested and wanted to be part of the solution.
2005 was an age ago, and so too was 2007, the year of McCain/Kennedy.
Morrison stated that ILIR was working on two things, the first being overall reform and legalization of the undocumented Irish. The other was an E3 program similar to one operating between the U.S. and Australia.
The E3 goal, he stressed, was not about giving up on the legalization effort.
Ireland, he said, was a small country that could only ever hope to lay claim to a small number of green cards. The E3 visa plan was a way to get more visas for the Irish.
And not just those sitting in Ireland with university degrees. The idea was to open the Irish version of the E3 to people with high school diplomas and a trade.
And, Morrison added, there might even be way to “jigger” an E3 deal to make it available to some undocumented.
“We want a twofer,” said Morrison in reference to ILIR’s grand strategy, or at least the grander version of it.
Getting that twofer was, however, something that would be decided in Washington. Morrison predicted that Senator Schumer, who is now chairing the Senate’s immigration subcommittee, would move a bill this year, or in 2010.
Morrison explained that he was hoping for “broad, generous legislation” from his old colleague and friend. He wasn’t going to worry too much about the details, though he also sketched some out.
“We want that bill to include our E3 idea,” he said.
And lest anybody in the audience was wondering about the possible scale of things to come, Morrison threw in a number. “10,500 to start with,” he said.
These would not be like the J1 visas, a year in an out, he said. But rather they would be two-year working visas that could be renewed indefinitely.
“Let’s go and get Senator Schumer the support he needs to legalize the Irish,” said Morrison to applause and cheers.
There was a fair bit of clapping and cheering during the meeting, some of it inspired by from-the-hip lines like one delivered by Celine Kennelly of the San Francisco Irish Immigration and Pastoral Center.
“It’s been a long tough road,” she said. “I don’t know about you, but I’m shite sick of it,” she said.
Ciaran Staunton had earlier alluded to a spat that had erupted between ILIR and then taoiseach Bertie Ahern in March, 2008.
There would be, he said, an Irish community in America long after Bertie had been forgotten.
Kennelly pointed to a different kind of ILIR campaign in the months ahead, a quieter one with a lot of work occurring behind the scenes.
But if there was nothing like the Irish when it came to finding a back door, this would equally be the case with the E3 visa plan, a front door solution.
“We’ve had enough. We need to solve this. We’re going to solve it,” Kennelly said.
Bart Murphy, ILIR’s recently appointed chairman, said that he wanted “you” that being his listeners, to take ownership of the E3 visa process.
ILIR was going to make it happen, said Murphy, who is also based in San Francisco.
Along, of course, with American politicians that viewed reform in the same light as ILIR.
“We will not be the forgotten Irish anymore,” Murphy vowed.

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese