And it will come into play should comprehensive reform fail to emerge from Congress.
This was the message delivered by Irish foreign minister Miche_l Martin during his four day U.S. visit last week.
And it was delivered in particular detail at the inaugural meeting of the Irish American Leadership Council at the American Irish Historical Society in Manhattan (see story, Page 3).
Martin, in discussing immigration reform and answering questions from council members, said that if comprehensive reform didn’t happen, the Irish government would “pursue” an E3 visa deal.
The E3 is an existing visa scheme contained in a bilateral deal between the U.S. and Australia.
In an Irish context it would mean a certain number of renewable U.S. work visas on an annual basis for Irish citizens, and a reciprocal offering to American citizens.
“We’ve stitched in the E3 concept and it’s well understood on the hill,” Martin said in reference to Capitol Hill where, during his visit, he met with seven senators and 16 members of the House of Representatives to discuss a range of issue including immigration reform and the plight of the undocumented Irish.
Martin said that Congress members had been “very responsive” to the bilateral idea, but he stressed that comprehensive reform was still the main engine for Irish hopes.
He said there was no possibility for a reform deal for just the undocumented Irish and in pursuing comprehensive reform the Irish community could not “go it alone” even though, he said, there were some who still thought this possible.
Martin stated at the council meeting that the first three months of 2010 would be the “window of opportunity” for reform.
During his visit to Washington, Martin met with key members of the House and Senate in the reform debate including Republican senators Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, and Arizona’s John McCain, who led the last big push for reform along with the late Senator Edward Kennedy.
Graham, together with New York’s Senator Charles Schumer are viewed as being the latter day version of McCain/Kennedy.
Just about everywhere he went over the four days, Martin was reminded on Irish immigration and immigrants, past, present and future.
He heard about the uphill efforts of organizations such as the GAA and the county associations as they cope with a situation where legal immigration from Ireland to America has all but become impossible.
“I am in no doubt that there remains a real commitment among many of our friends on Capitol Hill to work for a solution for the undocumented and to establish additional opportunities for legal migration between Ireland and the U.S.,” Martin said.