Category: Archive

Specter buys time, keeping hope alive

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

And during his St. Patrick’s Day visit to Washington, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern stated that his government would seek no special immigration deal for the Irish but would stake all its hopes in the kind of reform contained in the McCain/Kennedy Senate bill.
That proposal, which some observers had given little chance of surviving the Judicary panel’s scrutiny, was effectively embraced at the 11th hour by its chairman, Senator Arlen Specter.
Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican who had crafted a reform bill of his own, signaled support for the bipartisan McCain/Kennedy proposal to provide a means of so-called “earned legalization” to undocumented and illegal immigrants who could meet certain, specific, criteria.
Specter’s support is contingent on the clearing up of the current backlog that is delaying the processing of applications by an estimated three million people in line for a green card.
The current number of illegal and undocumented living within U.S. borders is far larger and generally listed in press reports as being 11 million.
The number of undocumented Irish is about 40,000 according to the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform.
“The Irish are just a small part of a very large problem at the end of the day,” Ahern said after meeting in Washington with Senator John McCain.
In his meeting with President Bush at the White House, Ahern urged the president to find a means for the undocumented Irish to secure legal lives in the U.S.
“On this St. Patrick’s Day, mindful of the resonance that this great issue commands for Ireland and its people, I would like to express the hope that a path may be found to enable current Irish immigrants to legalize their status in the U.S. on a permanent basis. I hope they can realize their dream of stable and secure lives for themselves and their families in this great country,” Ahern said.
Against the backdrop of the Judiciary Committee’s apparent blending of the main bills on its desk – McCain/Kennedy, Specter and the Cornyn/Kyl proposal – the waters were further muddied by a bill presented to the Senate by Bill Frist, the majority leader.
The Frist bill largely reflects the House of Representatives-approved Sensenbrenner/King bill, a measure that deals exclusively with border security and control and does not include a path to earned legalization.
The Senate is in its “St. Patrick’s Recess” this week and is due to return on Monday, March 27 for two weeks of deliberations before it goes into its scheduled spring recess.
One source said this week that in advance of an expected immigration vote that day, Judiciary Committee staffers were working to eliminate some “language difficulties” in the committee’s now anticipated compromise proposal.
When the Senate convenes Monday, Frist’s bill will be assigned priority given the seniority of its author.
Observers are hopeful that an agreed Judiciary bill, with McCain/Kennedy’s earned legalization provision on board, can then be attached in its entirety as an amendment to the Frist bill or, alternatively, the critical earned legalization provision would be attached along with other portions of the Judiciary proposal.
Reform backers would then hope for a House/Senate reconciliation of each chamber’s respective bill – again with earned legalization on board – before the Senate adjourns for Easter.
Meanwhile, ILIR has announced that Sen. McCain will appear at a town hall meeeting it is planning for Yonkers on March 31.
McCain will speak at a venue yet to be announced, ILIR said in a statement.
“This is exciting news,” said ILIR executive director Kelly Fincham.
“The fact that he is coming to such an Irish neighborhood is an
indication of how seriously he takes this issue. We are delighted to
host him.”

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