The New York Times has called for a renewed commitment to comprehensive immigration reform in the US in an editorial today. The editorial says that the US needs to confront the issue, with a solution that “would clamp down on the border and the workplace, streamline legal immigration and bring 12 million illegal immigrants out of the shadows”. It notes that the White House and Democratic leaders in Congress say they remain committed to comprehensive reform this year, despite “the poisonous stalemate on Capitol Hill”.
Remarkably, it mentions the recent declaration by the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform that the issue is dead. From the editorial:
At least one advocacy group, the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, has declared the dream of comprehensive reform dead. It is urging incremental change, with modest reforms like the Dream Act. Other groups may follow. It is too soon to give up.
Some Irish activists have been criticised in the past for being too willing to look for a special solution that would assist the undocumented Irish with a separate solution. Yesterday, Niall O’Dowd, speaking on Pat Kenny’s RTE 1 radio show, said that he believed the only option was a series of piecemeal solutions. One that he mentioned was a visa agreement between Ireland and the US similar to US agreements with Australia and Chile; this would give Irish people access to non-permanent visas, renewable every two years. While this would ensure continuing Irish access to the US, it’s a solution that would presumably be unavailable to the tens of thousands of Irish estimated to be in the US illegally right now.
The New York Times adds that legislation in the house is being prepared by Representative Luis Gutierrez, and a similar bill for the Senate by Charles Schumer and Lindsay Graham.
The Irish Echo seems to agree with the New York Times that there is life in the process yet. In last week’s edition, it said, “One source close to the legislative process admitted to what he called ‘a very challenging (legislative) environment’ but added that reports of reform’s demise were premature.”
Here’s hoping it’s too early to give up the fight.
- NYTimes.com: Reform, on Ice
- IrishCentral.com: Immigration reform is dead (Feb 20)
- IrishEcho.com: Reform not dead, but hanging by a thread (Feb 24)
The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform has resumed its campaign on behalf of the undocumented in the United States with a meeting outside Boston this week. More than 350 attended the meeting, which was held in the Irish Cultural Center in Canton.
ILIR President Ciaran Staunton said, “ILIR wants to make sure that this is the last generation of Irish in America that has to listen to a family member’s funeral on the telephone. It is our goal that this is the last generation of Irish to be undocumented in America.”
Former Congressman Bruce Morrison spoke about the proposal to create a visa similar to the E-3 that was established in a deal between Australia and the US last year. Even if such a deal could be passed for Ireland, however, this visa would probably not assist the undocumented already living in the US.
The Obama administration has given mixed signals on immigration reform in recent weeks. In March, President Obama told the Hispanic Immigration Caucus that he remained committed to comprehensive immigation reform; Obama had made a campaign pledge to address the issue in his first year in office. He said in March that he would initiate the process with a White House meeting this spring. However, Vice President Biden told a gathering of Central American leaders this month that the economy was an obstacle to immigration reform.
“It’s difficult to tell a constituency while unemployment is rising, they’re losing their jobs and their homes, that what we should do is, in fact, legalize (illegal immigrants) and stop all deportation.”
Related web pages:
- Boston.com:Irish on move again for immigrant rights
- Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform
- Arizona Republic: Obama sets new tone, but immigration action far off
The New York-based Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform will be holding a series of meetings after a period of reorganisation. They report they will hold the first meeting in Boston at the Irish Cultural Centre in Boston on April 6 at 7:30 pm. Speakers will include Bruce Morison, ILIR chair Bart Murphy, vice-chair Ciaran Staunton and Executive Director Kelly Fincham.
Bart Murphy, a San Francisco-based immigration advocate, recently took over the position of chair from Irish Voice publisher Niall O’Dowd.
For more information, visit the ILIR blog.
Actress Fionnuala Flanagan has refused to appear at an event sponsored by the US-Ireland Alliance because of the stand the organisation has taken regarding the Irish undocumented in the US.
US-Ireland Alliance director Trina Vargo wrote an opinion piece that appeared in the Irish Times in October, where she criticised the efforts of those who are campaigning for a special deal that would allow the undocumented Irish to stay in the US. Some immigrant advocates had moved toward working toward such a special arrangement following the defeat of comprehensive immigration reform earlier last year.
When Ms Flanagan heard of the article, she pulled out of a previously scheduled appearance. She wrote to Ms Vargo that she muse “respectfully decline to be honoured by your organisation which appears to have taken such a strong position against the most vulnerable of my countrymen”, according to the Irish Times.
She further added that Irish immigrants had resorted to organised lobbying on their own behalf because they were disillusioned by the repeated failure of governments to solve the issue.
Ms Vargo told the Irish Times, “Ms Flanagan supports a special deal for illegal Irish immigrants. I support legalisation of all immigrants”.