The presidential stopover at a new border control post in Yuma, Arizona, was being seen as a curtain raiser to a revived White House effort aimed at encouraging lawmakers on Capitol Hill to come up with an agreed reform formula – this even as the issue is becoming more obviously nettlesome as the 2008 presidential race seemingly gathers pace months earlier than it has done in recent years.
“We’re working closely with Republicans and Democrats to find a practical answer that lies between granting automatic citizenship to every illegal immigrant and deporting every illegal immigrant,” the president said.
“I think the atmosphere up there is good right now,” Bush said in reference to Capitol Hill. “I think people genuinely want to come together and put a good bill together.”
The leading Democrat in the reform effort is Senator Edward Kennedy.
“There is a lot of common ground, especially in the need to strengthen our borders and enforce our laws, though important differences remain to be resolved,” the Boston Globe reported Kennedy as saying in reaction to the president’s latest words.
Before the border visit, USA Today reported a presidential spokesman as saying that Bush was “laser-focused” on the reform issue.
Congress, by contrast, is lately showing signs of being more blurred. Senator John McCain, a partner with Kennedy on a successful Senate reform bill last year, has stepped back from taking a leading role while a number of reports have indicated that even if a bill acceptable to President Bush emerges from both the House and Senate it will be no giveaway and, in fact, may not even include a path to ultimate citizenship for the undocumented and illegal.
Meanwhile, the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform is this week moving its campaign to Dublin where a rally is being planned in a top city hotel.
The event is set for Saturday in Jury’s of Ballsbridge and is intended to raise the profile of the group’s campaign in the U.S. while highlighting for an Irish audience just what the undocumented Irish in America are having to face as part of their daily lives.
ILIR executive director Kelly Fincham said that the group was hoping to attract a thousand people to the rally.
The ILIR event comes just days after a conference in Dublin Castle intended as a launch pad for a national debate on the Irish diaspora.
During the conference, attended by a congressional delegation led by Friends of Ireland chairman, Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, Irish foreign minister Dermot Ahern said that a major priority of his government was that part of the diaspora made up of undocumented Irish in the U.S.
“We are aware that some undocumented Irish people resident in the U.S. are unable to travel home to visit their families, and we understand the difficulty and stress that this causes for them and their families. We take every opportunity to convey to U.S. political leaders the urgent need to address the issues involved,” Ahern said.
Ahern welcomed the recent unveiling of the Gutierrez/Flake immigration reform bill in the House of Representatives.
“Although the legislative situation is fluid and the final outcome uncertain, the introduction of the bipartisan bill in the House marks a significant advance in the debate. In the weeks ahead, I will be attaching the highest priority to our efforts on behalf of the undocumented Irish,” Ahern said.
DEATH OF OWEN O’REILLY
The death has taken place in New York of popular publican Owen O’Reilly. The Kilnaleck, County Cavan native and owner of O’Reilly’s bar and restaurant on 35th Street in Manhattan died suddenly on Monday. He was 57. O’Reilly will be waked Thursday and Friday, 2-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. at the McManus funeral home, 445 West 43rd St between Ninth and Tenth avenues. A funeral Mass will take place Saturday at 10 a.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Church on 31st. Street (lower church) between Sixth and Seventh avenues.
New York City Comptroller William Thompson, together with the Brehon Law Society and the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, will celebrate Irish heritage and culture April 18 by honoring five members of the city’s community.
The five honorees are: Father Joseph O’Hare, former president of Fordham University and former chairman of the New York City Campaign Finance Board; Carol Anne Riddell, education reporter and anchor for NBC4; Elaine M. Walsh, professor of Urban Affairs at Hunter College; Ciaran Staunton, vice president of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform and author and journalist Nuala O’Faolain.
The event, which has been hosted by the city comptroller’s office for a number of years, will take place in the Council Chambers at New York City Hall.
MEASURE FOR MEASURE
The Irish government is very keen on the Mitchell scholarships. So keen that it is prepared to match whatever the U.S.-Ireland Alliance raises for the program over the next five years up to a ceiling of 20 million euro.
According to Alliance president Trina Vargo, the Mitchell program wants to raise 40 million euro to ensure that the program is permanently funded in the same way that the Rhodes Scholarship program, which sends future leaders to Oxford for study — is supported
The Mitchell Scholarship program named after Good Friday agreement architect Senator George Mitchell — was set up in 1998. To date, over 80 U.S. students have studied in Irish universities, both in the North and the Republic, under its auspices.
“This is the largest commitment the Irish government has ever made to a U.S. organization,” said Vargo.
“We are honored by this support and encouragement, which is evidence of the government’s understanding of the many changes both Ireland and Irish America must address in building a future relationship based on contemporary realities.”
The fundraising effort will be spearheaded by financier Derek Quinlan of Quinlan Private who has committed himself to helping the Alliance raise its half of the 40 million target.