Over the past few years, many hours of conference calls, meetings, and email and phone communications have been employed by the AOH towards our current effort for immigration reform. We’ve listened and considered the often valid and thought provoking, and as often polarizing and scathing critiques and opposition of the current Immigration Bill from Hibernians and others. Let me be clear, the current Congressional Immigration legislation is not perfect, no Bill is. It is not our responsibility to draft federal legislation. Our responsibility is to our Irish immigrants, whether undocumented or our future Irish immigrants, to assure safe and legal paths. Were we to stand idly by while other interest groups succeed in passing legislation; Based on past practice, we would not get another chance for AT LEAST 20 YEARS! Therefore, this organization and its members cannot and will not sit on the sidelines on CIR. Should it fail; we will dust ourselves off and get back on the horse. Tenacity is one of our greatest attributes as Hibernians and we will continue until we succeed.
On a July 11th visit to Washington DC, I met with 12 members of the House, particularly GOP representatives, to support Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). I can report that these visits were well received by all and the legislators and staff shared their issues with the current Senate Bill, S. 744: Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. That evening at the Embassy of Ireland, along with representatives of ILIR and Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform, I met Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) Eamon Gilmore, Irish Ambassador Michael Collins and Foreign Affairs Director General Niall Burgess to compare our observations on the current Irish American efforts and the viability of CIR. It was acknowledged that the AOH is uniquely positioned as the only organization with members in many of the Congressional Districts needed to pass this legislation. We left that meeting confident that we are closer today than we have been in nearly 50 years to real reform that includes Homeland Security and border improvements, an end to the plight of the Irish undocumented and a real quota of new legal visas for Irish immigrants. The hard work has just begun. The AOH is once again leading the way on immigration reform and we have a lot to do.
Hibernians, particularly those in GOP led Districts, are encouraged to let your US Representative know that as an Irish American and a Hibernian that you feel Comprehensive Immigration Reform is good for the Nation and you would like the Representative to support it as well. During the summer recess, your Congressman will attend many events in your District. If you have an opportunity, please speak to the legislator. Consider making an appointment to visit the legislator’s district office. If not, please get on the phone; write an email or letter to your Congressional House Representative. If the Representative is not available ask for the legislative or immigration aide. Also, we need to keep a running tab on legislators that are onboard and those that might need a gentle nudge towards support. Please contact me with results of your efforts good bad or indifferent. Communication within our organization is a key to our success and you can play a major role in improving those lines of communication.
(Included in this Digest is a letter from National President Brendan Moore. Please email me at email@example.com and I will send you a personalized digital copy of that letter for your Congressman that you may send along with your own letter or message to the representative.)
Here are some of the benefits to Irish America included in the passed Senate Bill, S. 744: Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act:
Path to Citizenship for Undocumented: The bill puts 50,000 Irish undocumented on a 13 year long path to citizenship accompanied by a system of fines, taxes and criminal background checks. The PRI’s, as the undocumented will then be known, will be required to become ‘vested’ in Social Security, PAY FOR THEIR OWN HEALTH CARE AND OTHER BENEFITS for a nearly decade-long period. Only after 9 years of gainful employment and tax payment, the PRI’s are Green card eligible and only then may they avail of the benefits available to every US legal naturalized resident. Providing that certain security measures are satisfied, 180 days after the legislation is signed, the PRI’s will be allowed to live, work, and travel home to Ireland freely throughout the period of adjustment. This would bring great relief to their family members back in Ireland, many who haven’t seen loved ones in decades.
Future Flow: the Schumer Visa (AKA Irish E3 Visa) is 10,500 annual and renewable 3 year visas for Irish citizens, and their families, to live and work in the US. This will create much needed future flow for Ireland AND IS THE LARGEST ALLOTMENT OF VISAS FOR THE IRISH SINCE 1965. The Schumer Visas name was selected by the Senators colleagues as a tribute to his championing Irish Visa issues, especially during the critical Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. Provisions in legislation would lead to an oath to green cards for these workers.
Work, Education and Language Requirements: There are many changes and new avenues in Comprehensive Immigration Reform that can provide for a greater number of Irish people, North and South, to apply for visas due to the English language, education and other requirements included. Irish students educated at our Universities would be given a long sought after opportunity; to stay in the US upon completing their education, instead of being forced to go home, as is the current practice.
In closing, as part of my responsibilities as Immigration Chair, I often field 10 to 15 calls and emails a week from AOH members with a variety of immigration issues (N. Ireland related, deportations, incarcerations, marriage related, adjustments of status, lawyer referrals, criminal issues, migration/ emigration/ holiday travel, J1 Visas, etc.) This work cannot be done without the support of members across the Order and the network of Irish immigrant advocates, lobbyists and attorneys that we have developed over the years. We also rely on the Irish Consulates and Irish Immigration Centers and they on the AOH. In Superstorm Sandy’s recovery we all came together for a common cause. Now we are asked to come together to, once and for all, address the need for Comprehensive Immigration reform. Please continue to support our Irish Immigration Centers; we will need them when our work on the Bill is done. I wish you and your loved ones, a safe and healthy summer.