By Ray O’Hanlon
You won’t find Ted Kennedy’s name attached to any visa plan in operation now, or one that was administered at any point during the last 35 years or so. But neither will you find much in the way of U.S. immigration law in operation over the same span of time that doesn’t carry the legislative fingerprints of the senior senator from Massachusetts.
And so it was last week that New York’s Sen. Chuck Schumer was gearing up to launch a Senate companion bill to the King/McCarthy bill in the House of Representatives, a piece of legislation intended to extend the 245i immigration provision. But the Senate has its ways and means and Schumer — who does have a visa named after him — had to bow to Kennedy’s seniority. Thus was born the Kennedy version of the House bill. But even Kennedy must bow to present realities.
Being in the minority party it was necessary to find a GOP co-sponsor. Such a figure came in the form of Sen. Chuck Hagel from Nebraska. He being in the majority party, the resulting Senate 245i initiative was the Hagel/Kennedy bill. It was quickly supported by Schumer, Hillary Clinton and others from both sides of the aisle. And that, precisely, has been Kennedy’s skill down the years: bridging the partisan divide and pulling in support from colleagues who would not normally give him the political time of day, at least not until he came knocking on their doors with a pocketful of quid pro quos.
The Rev. Leon Sullivan passed away last week at the age of 78. And though his death was probably marked more by African Americans than Irish Americans, it should not be allowed pass in these pages without a tip of the hat to man who struggled all his life against the stain of segregation, not just in this country but most especially in South Africa.
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Sullivan’s name was attached to a set of employment guidelines for South Africa in 1977 that became known as the Sullivan Principles. In time, the Sullivan Principles would be adopted and adapted to another place where jobs were divvied up on the basis of what group, or perceived group, in society that you belonged to. The Sullivan Principles gave inspiration to the MacBride Principles and the rest, as they say, is history.
On a hot July afternoon last year "IF" collided with an all-American hero. It was just inside the back entrance of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. "IF" had stepped out of the elevator following an interview with an august politician. Pumped up as a result of a good interview and looking forward to an event later in the evening organized by the lobby group, Irish American Democrats, "IF" was in a bit of a hurry. Bill Clinton was going to show up at the IAD event and in such circumstances it was necessary to turn up on time before the Secret Service put a lock on the hotel.
Walking toward the revolving door, your fast-moving columnist noticed another figure to the left. "IF" and said individual were making for the door in lockstep and we reached it at the same instant. There was room for only one of us at a time.
Now, as readers know, "IF" is a most deferential soul and given that the other guy didn’t seem aware that we were about to collide, "IF" stopped, turned and indicated with an extended arm and benevolent smile that he could step into the gap first.
"He" was Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, onetime presidential candidate and Vietnam war hero. Kerry had lost part of a leg in the war, although that certainly wasn’t slowing him down now. Kerrey duly moved through the revolving door but paused for a moment outside before walking down the Capitol steps.
"IF" remembers thinking that this would be a great photograph. The famous senator as monarch of all he might someday survey should he have another go at the White House and win. But that was that. The moment gone, Kerrey went his way and "IF" went off in search of another air-conditioned room.
Now we know, given all the revelations of the last week, that Kerrey had every reason to appear distracted from his surroundings. He has been carrying the kind of burden for decades that nobody wise or sane ever sets out to acquire in life.
Interestingly enough, Kerrey, as a presidential candidate in 1992, was, according to one well-placed individual who worked with him at the time, the first Democratic candidate that year to propose a U.S. peace envoy to Northern Ireland. It would seem all the more appropriate if that was the case given that Bob Kerrey is a man intimately aware of the tragedies that so easily occur when a war is fought in and around the homes and daily lives of non-combatants."
€ "It sounds like the plot of an action thriller by Tom Clancy or Jack Higgins. An American businessman is recruited by the FBI and Britain’s MI5 to penetrate a maverick group of ruthless IRA guerrillas. But this is not fiction." Pete Fearon in the New York Post on the David Rupert story and Rupert’s alleged penetration of the Real IRA.
€ "The fruit trees are in blossom on Donegall Quay and the swallows have returned to County Down but the spirit of spring has given Belfast the slip this year." Warren Hoge in the New York Times on the troubles in the peace process.
€ "You are cordially invited to join in celebration of the birth of George Harrison, freedom fighter, humanitarian, millenial man." Invitation to Harrison’s recent birthday bash at the law office of O’Dwyer and Bernstien in Manhattan.
€ "If Americans knew anything about Irish dancing B.R. (Before "Riverdance") it was because men and women Hibernians rolled up their sleeves and emptied their purses top host Feis’ and dancing school activities." Ancient Order of Hibernians National President Tom Gilligan in a speech at the AOH Connecticut President’s Dinner in Bridgeport, Conn.
€ "Splits within AFL-CIO will benefit contractors. Two more unions likely to follow the 525,000-strong carpenters’ union out the door. A big loss of clout for the AFL-CIO and its president (John) Sweeney." Kipplinger’s Washington Newsletter.