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    Senate Majority leader optimistic on immigration reform prospects

    Friday, November 28th, 2008

    There has been much speculation on whether and how quickly comprehensive immigration reform might be tackled in the US. There has been widespread hope that there might be another effort at immigration reform, which would presumably benefit the estimated 50,000 Irish among the US’s 12 million undocumented, soon into Barack Obama’s new term.

    An interview with Harry Reid earlier this month, by Deborah Barfield Berry of the Gannett News Service, indicates that President-elect Barack Obama and Senator John McCain, who spearheaded prior efforts at bipartisan immigration reform, have been in discussion on the issue of immigration reform. Harry Reid is the Senate Majority Leader, and the interview from which this is excerpted focused on priorities for next year.

    Q: With more Democrats in the Senate and the House and a Democrat in the White House, how do you see congressional efforts playing out on such issues as health care and immigration?

    On immigration, there’s been an agreement between (President-elect Barack) Obama and (Arizona Republican Sen. John) McCain to move forward on that. … We’ll do that. We have to get this economy stuff figured out first, so I think we’ll have a shot at doing something on health care in the next Congress for sure.

    Q: Will there be as much of a fight on immigration as last time?

    A: We’ve got McCain and we’ve got a few others. I don’t expect much of a fight at all. Now health care is going to be difficult. That’s a very complicated issue. We debated at great length immigration. People understand the issues very well. We have not debated health care, so that’s going to take a lot more time to do.

    Deportations from US increasing

    Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

    The number of undocumented Irish people being deported from the United States has been increasing steadily, according to news reports.

    So far this year, there have been 58 people deported from the US; This contrasts with a total annual figure of 53 in 2007, and 41 in 2006.

    This increase in Irish deportees  is in line with rising figures for total deportations from the US, as the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials increase enforcement and coordinate with other agencies.

    See the full article in the Evening Herald.

    Undocumented resolution unlikely: Ahern

    Thursday, February 7th, 2008

    The Taoiseach dealt with a number of issues related to emigration, and particularly the undocumented in the US, during question time in the Dail yesterday. He said that a bilateral agreement that would allow Irish and American citizens to travel and work between the two countries was on hold for political reasons. Mr Ahern also noted that most of the existing models for bilateral agreements would not take care of those who were already undocumented.

    Speaking about his upcoming visit to Washington, Mr Ahern said:

    There is a strong sense in Washington that immigration reform will remain a difficult issue for the foreseeable future. While US political leaders fully acknowledge that the number of undocumented Irish is extremely small in the overall context, there is an understandable reluctance to single out one particular group for preferential treatment, and therein lies the difficulty. I do not believe anyone is against our cause, but when taken in its totality they cannot deal with it. We will, of course, continue our efforts for as long as it takes, and I shall certainly work on it again next month at the meetings that I will have.

    See the Dail report under the heading “Ireland-US relations”.

    Actress at odds with US-Ireland Alliance on visa campaign

    Thursday, January 17th, 2008

    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”.

    See the article in the Irish Times (registration required).

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