By Susan Falvella-Garraty
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Just a few months after the concept was floated on Capitol Hill to see if there would be support, an effort to acquire 50,000 new visas for Irish in the North and South will have a subcommittee hearing this week.
While the rest of the full House Judiciary Committee will be dealing with you know what, the sub-committee chairman, Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, will hold hearings on Friday on a plan to allow participants to leave Ireland for five years to enter special training programs.
Concerns have been raised from organized labor that visa holders would deprive U.S. residents of places in training and entry-level jobs. The White House, too, has had reservations about the new visa proposal.
In an event at the White House two weeks ago, Brian O’Dwyer of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center said President Clinton has at times gone against the advice of presidential advisors when it comes to matters pertaining to Ireland.
"If he had to listen to some at the State Department, Gerry Adams would never have gotten a visa," O’Dwyer said. "I think Bill Clinton doesn’t always listen to them, and when it comes to Ireland he does what he wants to do and I think he’ll back this."
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White House officials have particular concerns over eligibility for the visa. Under the current language, refugees or others who wish to immigrate to the United States could move to one of the areas described in the bill from anywhere in the EU and thus be eligible to enter to the United States for five years.
There is no language presently in the bill dictating how long a visa applicant would have to have lived in the North or a border county in order to qualify.
The White House has additional concerns that once here, visa holders would not return at the end of the proscribed five-year period of the program.