Sunday, December 30, 2007
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
[Published: Monday 24, December 2007 - 08:14]
In her Christmas message Mrs McAleese says the shift from conflict to consensus in Northern Ireland has been dramatic.
President McAleese also acknowledges the lonliness of the undocumented Irish in the United States and their families at home.
She is urging everyone to remember the Irish abroad this Christmas.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Damien has been in the US for 21 years and both himself and his father are hoping for a resolution of this issue so Damien can spend next Christmas in Ireland.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Fears deal will leave out undocumented
By Ray O'Hanlon
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will address a joint session of Congress at a deate to be decided in the New Year. And he has promised to raise the plight of the undocumented Irish before the assembled senators and representatives.
But fears are being voiced this week that those very same undocumented will be left out of a possible bilateral visa deal between the U.S. and Ireland.
The idea of a bilateral has been stirring for the past couple of years but has risen to greater prominence since the collapse earlier this year of a comprehensive immigration reform effort in the Congress.
Ahern and other Irish government members, including foreign minister Dermot Ahern, have spoken of the possibility of a deal that would facilitate easier movement of Irish citizens into the U.S. economy and the same for American wishing to live in Ireland.
Minister Ahern has stated that Ireland has the legal leeway to negotiate a bilateral with the U.S. within the parameters of European Union immigration rules.
Taoiseach Ahern, speaking on Irish radio, spoke of the possibility of a bilateral but in the same breath appeared to suggest that it would not encompass the undocumented Irish already in the U.S.
"There's a chance of us doing a direct arrangement with America, but that doesn't cover those people who had difficulties in the past. We can do a bilateral arrangement that will help new people, but it doesn't deal with the undocumented,' Ahern told the RTE show "Morning Ireland."
Ahern's words prompted immediate criticism from the Ireland-based lobby group, Families and Friends of the Irish Undocumented.
"The friends and families of the Irish undocumented are concerned at the news that the Irish government is going to leave our families and friends out of any visa arrangement," said spokeswoman Kate Hickey.
"The Irish government can't just forget about them and think no-one will notice or care.
"If the taoiseach goes to Washington and addresses the United States Congress without first having solved the plight of the Irish undocumented there will be thousands of us in the Capitol waiting to see him," she said.
"Our friends and families have waited too long and worked too hard to let this effort fail."
Hickey's group recently picked Leinster House in Dublin during a Dáil debate on the undocumented. That debate led to a joint motion agreed to by all parties, in support of seeking relief for the tends of thousands of Irish in the U.S. daily living in the shadows of immigration illegality.
this article available at :
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
It has now been 36 days since we picketed outside the Dáil and since the Dáil decided that they would take action on the undocumented plight. Still we have heard nothing back on what will be done for our friends and families.
I’m sure everyone has a similar story to mine. Right now my parents are over in New York visiting my sister and brother-in-law. This year will be another year without them at the dinner table. My father who turned 65 this year decided he had to go because he realised he hadn’t see his daughter in three years, when he visited last.
Last night I spent the evening wrapping presents for my sister and her husband as my brother will be going over to visit them on Friday. He makes a conscious effort to see them every year and coming up to Christmas this seems even more touching.
It’s funny to read about all the Irish going over to the States on their shopping trips at this time of year. I wonder how many of those travelling to go shopping will also be visiting their friends and families who, yet again, won’t be coming home this Christmas.
Remember to call / email / leave a message with your local politicians to remind them who will be missing at your dinner table this Christmas.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
He was 20. Young, unmarried and mobile, the couple got three-month US visas: "We didn't know whether we were going to like it. We might have been back." The nature of the farewells suggested otherwise. "There was a big party, a kind of American wake". His father, Mick, was too upset to get out of bed and say goodbye when they left for the airport.
After a few months living with a family friend from Pettigo, Co Donegal, Mícheál got a job as a labourer. "I began to like it. I joined up with the Fermanagh team. You made friends and it became a home away from home - playing in Gaelic Park on a Sunday, with a barbecue, the band playing, the lovely summer weather." Cheryl got a "good job" as a nanny on the Upper East Side, working 14-hour days from 7am. Mícheál moved up from labourer to carpenter.
"Then they took me into the office and trained me, paid for my engineering classes at night school. Now I'm senior project manager. That would never have happened in Ireland. It was them pushing me".
For the first few years, everyone was visiting them and their status didn't worry them. But when a lottery visa scheme came up, they applied for it through a sponsor. Meanwhile, around Christmas 2000, they had decided they wanted to get married at home in Donegal. Everything was going smoothly. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) - now the US Citizenship and Immigration Services - had indicated by letter that they would be approved. Mícheál checked the wedding dates with his lawyer to ensure that their case would not be harmed by leaving the country at that time. They were told to go ahead, but that turned out to be bad advice. "Because of that, I went home one day before I should have so I wasn't able to prove that I was in the country on that particular date". The McMahons were snookered.
Then came 9/11. "That put everyone back at the bottom of the pile." They've had two children since then, Mícheál junior and Íosa, and both are entitled to American passports. But the parents are legal ghosts and, for an outsider, the complexity of each particular case is difficult to fathom. After 9/11, he says, the crackdown on companies employing illegal immigrants made it too risky for many. "After a second offence, they can close a company down." Although he had paid taxes for 10 years, he never got a social insurance number. Others who came out before 9/11 were luckier, he says: "They managed to get into a union and are paying taxes". Without a number, the system is effectively closed.
They cannot get a mortgage, so they will always be renting. He cannot travel internally or get a driver's licence. "There is always the danger now of being picked up. I don't travel inside America; I never leave the Bronx. For vacation, we go to Manhattan [ a 30-minute train ride] for a week and stay in a hotel in Times Square".
And of course there is no question of a visit to Ireland.
Apart from the wedding trip, only Cheryl has been home in 14 years, for her father's funeral. "That was a massive risk", she says. "I wasn't stopped but that's the luck of the draw". In the meantime, a grandmother has died; a sister got married; Mícheál's youngest sister - seven months old when he left - has grown into her teens without getting to know her only brother. Next year, his parents will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. For Cheryl's parents, Mícheál junior and Íosa are their only grandchildren. The separation cuts deep. "It's no life really," he concedes.
Yet, it seems, there is no going back.
"There was no boom when I was there. No matter how bad things are in New York, there's always work, you can always be a delivery boy. I've made a new life here, I've got two American kids. I don't think there is anyone more deserving. I've spent a third of my life here. How long is the boom going to last in the north of Ireland? What would Ireland do if 25,000 people arrived back there next week ? Is Ireland willing to pay for my kids to go to school, for healthcare? Will it have a house for me and a job ? I don't think so."
He sees the obvious disconnect between his case and the fact that so many others like him returned home during the boom that New York's GAA is struggling to assemble teams. "When we came over, there were 16 hurling teams, now there are only four. A lot went home when the [ immigration reform] bill failed in the American congress. But a lot have decided to come back again. I know two bricklayers who were legal and who went home but are back again because the work is not there for them. Another family moved back [ to Ireland] for 18 months and hated it. They couldn't afford to live the sort of life they had here. They hadn't the same freedom at all." The younger elements of the diaspora can be surprisingly unsentimental about the oul' sod.
MÍCHEÁL PRIDES HIMSELF on the fact that he has "never, ever claimed anything off the state". Their private health insurance costs $245 (€167) a month. Mícheál junior's kindergarten is $5,000 (€3,415) a year: "He won't be a burden on the state, even though he's totally entitled to it", says Mícheál firmly. "My dream is of the day when I can call myself a legal citizen of New York and walk in and pay my taxes."
In that case, they're stuck hard, in a climate as hostile to immigrants as the US has ever seen. "I've never been in trouble a day in my life. But I can't apply for legalisation. I entered this country illegally and that's it."
It's time the Irish Government did something, he says. "My brother came through Shannon and said it's like an American army base. How many other countries are doing that? Yet Bertie Ahern can't just call George Bush . . . The action group at home have met politicians such as Ahern and Eamon Ryan but it's always the same thing: 'This is a complex issue.' I thought governments were meant to deal with complex issues." Cheryl interjects gently: "It is complex. This isn't only about the Irish."
Friday, December 7, 2007
Taoiseach to raise illegal Irish with Senator Kennedy
The Taoiseach is due to discuss the issue of illegal Irish immigrants in America with US Senator Ted Kennedy this afternoon.
Bertie Ahern says the issue will be raised during a telephone conversation that will cover a number of issues.
Recent efforts by the US Congress to regularise the status of all illegal immigrants failed due to opposition from some politicians.
Support groups for the estimated 50,00 to 60,000 undocumented Irish citizens in the States are now seeking a special deal for Irish people that would exclude immigrants from Mexico and other countries.
Friday, 7 December 2007 10:23
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said that it will be an honour for Ireland, and for him personally, when he addresses the joint Houses of Congress in Washington early next year.
Mr Ahern said he would use the opportunity to raise the issue of the numbers of undocumented Irish living in the US.
The announcement was made last night in Washington during a function for Northern Ireland's First and Deputy First ministers, Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness.
Last night the Taoiseach said he was surprised but very pleased to have such an opportunity.
Earlier this year the Taoiseach addressed both Houses of Parliament in Westminster in London but he said the historic ties between the US and Ireland will make this a special occasion.
Story from RTÉ News: http://www.rte.ie/news/2007/1207/ahernb.html
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Bruce Morrison, the man behind the Morrison visas which helped so many Irish in the 1990s, penned a brilliant piece in The Irish Times on Saturday.
The article, which is posted here practically spells out how the Irish Government should approach the US Government. There's no talk of "special deals," or "amnesties", just a clear headed and pragmatic approach to solving this problem once and for all.
It's clearly in all our interests to create what Morrison calls a "culture of compliance," and a new permanent legal path for Irish people to emigrate to the US.
The Irish Times,Sat, Dec 01, 2007
If the Government did not lobby the US government on immigration, it would lose influence in Washington, argues Bruce Morrison
Dan O'Brien certainly likes lecturing the Government about its benighted policies and practices (Focus on Irish illegals in US is policy failure, Opinion and Analysis, November 29th). In January 2005, he instructed on the failure of the peace process to deal effectively with "militant republicanism" and warned that it would "take a generation" for the transformation to democratic rule in the North to take hold. I am sure he meant well, but the Government wisely ignored his counsel and kept on course to achieve the May 8th milestone of devolved government in the North.
I am sure that he means well again with his lecture on the politics of Washington and the conduct of foreign policy as it relates to US immigration. As someone who has actually legislated in Washington, advised former US president Bill Clinton, and lobbies on immigration today, I am confident that he is just as mistaken in his current advice. But first it is essential to correct the record. O'Brien tells Cabinet Ministers to stop "pestering" and "browbeating" officials and legislators in Washington, who they have "harangued" on the immigration issue. Who is your source Dan? I have been working with Cabinet Ministers and other representatives of the Irish government in Washington on immigration, the North, economic investment and other issues for 25 years. I have never seen nor heard of any such behaviour.
Relations between Irish political and diplomatic leaders and their US counterparts are as warm and cordial as anyone could imagine.
But this is about more than courteous exchanges. O'Brien has the relationship completely backwards. He thinks that if the Government leadership would just keep quiet until his idea of an important issue comes up, the US government will then snap to attention and do what it is told. Not likely. Political influence is like a muscle. The more it is used, the stronger it gets. Those who can garner political victories are the ones who get listened to the next time they come calling. In Washington, the meek do not inherit the earth.
Leave it to the Irish-Americans, says Dan. But he has it backwards again. The only reason Ireland punches above its weight in Washington is the political impact of 40 million Irish-Americans. When the Irish Government and Irish America work in tandem, it is a potent team. That is the story of the immigration victories of the Donnelly and Morrison visas and it was the story of the peace process over the past 15 years.
Both the Irish public and the Irish-American public want the immigration plight of the undocumented Irish in the US addressed. What better than for both to show their political and practical unity on the issue?
The single-greatest asset that Ireland has in its relationship with the US is the strength and influence of the huge Irish-American diaspora. This community has been replenished over the past two centuries by repeated waves of arrivals. One generation of the Celtic Tiger does not change those fundamentals.
It is deeply important for Ireland to continue to have a footprint in the US. Unfortunately, US immigration policy has made legal immigration increasingly difficult - so that only 1,000 Irish got green cards out of a million issued in 2005.
The Government is better placed than ever since the success of the peace process and the end of the old disputes to work with that diaspora to address this problem. They have given every indication of grasping that opportunity, including their role in the recent US-Ireland Forum. The immigration issue is a key element of that relationship.
An opinion poll to be released next week will show that 87 per cent of the Irish public believes working on the immigration issue is a major priority. Irish-America feels the same way, as demonstrated by the massive support at rallies for the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform. The Government would be seriously remiss if it did not continue to work on an issue of such importance.
Worse perhaps than all the naive speculation about how "foreign policy" will be damaged by Ireland showing its strength in Washington on the immigration issue, is O'Brien's complete distortion of the proposals that the Government is supporting. The Government is looking for a more substantial number of visa slots to assure a continuing flow of legal immigrants to the US, coupled with a reciprocal commitment of easier entry for a like number of Americans to work in Ireland. The goal is to end the illegal flow and create a "culture of compliance" with US immigration law for those who wish to work and live in the US.
It is in this context of opening the door wider and ending unauthorised entries and stays that the Government also proposes to let the current undocumented be eligible to join that new legal flow by coming home to get visas and be allowed to return without being barred for 10 years, as would happen under current law.
Contrary to being offensive to US politicians struggling with immigration, this approach is music to their ears. Here is the Government offering to create an opportunity for Americans to work in Ireland and to remove the barriers to the Irish doing the same in the US on a fully legal basis. And the plan does not involve amnesty, but rather a return home and a waiver of the waiting time to go back using authorities already long recognised in US law.
No one can be sure if this plan will succeed, but it will not be because anyone resents the attempt. In the US, politicians expect that other governments will pursue their interests.
Former congressman Bruce Morrison was the author of the Morrison visas legislation and a founding member of the Irish-American peace delegation to Northern Ireland, beginning in 1993© 2007 The Irish Times
Sunday, November 25, 2007
The NY Ladies then hosted a huge dinner dance where 500 or so people heard chairperson Nollaig Cleary congratulate the teams on their achievement.
Nollaig pointed out that the Ladies would not be able to send a team to Ireland to play in the Underdogs series because so few of them can travel.
She also urged the Irish Government to get off its posterior and help legalise the Irish.
We've spoken to some of the girls on the teams and they said they're not going to move back to Ireland because, "there's nothing there for us."
The hard truth of the matter is they're right. We can see the shuttered construction sites; we can see the job losses being reported nearly every day now. Tough and all as it is being undocumented in the US, it's going to be a lot tougher being on the dole in Ireland.
Why doesn't the Government understand this? They're supposed to be cleverer than us.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Immigration reform in the US is a complex and politicallypoisonous issue. No comprehensive solution has been proposed thatwould resolve the plight of millions of illegal immigrants.
In a political system that thrives on special interests and with norelief in sight for any undocumented immigrants, why shouldn't theIrish lobby for an agreement based on their historical and ongoingcontribution to the United States?
Trina Vargo's opposition on moral grounds to efforts to legalise theIrish smacks of elitism. The strong cultural, economic and financialties that now exist between Ireland and the US were built on the backsof labourers who came here over many years. The new Ireland has led toan influx of educated Irish professionals to the US but there are manyIrish who didn't reap the benefits of the Celtic Tiger and for whomAmerica represents a better life. Her ill-judged comments demonstrateher abject unfamiliarity with all the realities of the Irish inAmerica and the Irish American world that exists outside ofphilanthropic boardrooms.
- Yours, etc,
MARY McEVOY, Yonkers, New York, USA.
I am a 39-year-old, second-generation Irish American and I aman ardent supporter of a deal for all illegal immigrants living inthis great nation. Trina Vargo's article in The Irish Timesis terriblyflawed from an economic and political standpoint. The fact that shehas worked for Senator Kennedy leads me to believe she has a fairlygood understanding of how politics influence legislation in the UnitedStates. If, in fact, a "small" group of Irish-Americans can influenceCongress to pass legislation for illegal Irish immigrants, she wouldbe a fool not to think that similar legislation for illegal Mexicanimmigrants would soon follow. There has to be a "jumping-off point";someone or some group has to blaze the trail so that all may follow.This great country was created by people who were not afraid to go outand blaze trails so that others might benefit.
As for her glowing economic analysis of Ireland and the "CelticTiger", she has conveniently exposed herself as an advocate ofsocialism. I find no mention of Ireland's oppressive tax rates,economically depressed traditional industries and a socialised healthcare system that is a complete failure. Canadian citizens, alsovictims of socialised medicine, enter the United States daily for MRIsand other tests that they would have to wait months for back home.
I suggest she reads Milton Friedman's classic book Freedom to Choose,because essentially all illegal immigrants want is the freedom tochoose. My grandparents came to this country from Ireland seeking abetter life and they were met with: "No Irish need apply". Who are weto repeat those words to the Irish immigrants or any other immigrantsin the year 2007? History and God will judge us poorly if we continueto force hard working, honest people to live in the shadows of freedomthat so many of us take for granted.
- Yours, etc,
EDWARD NELSON, Long Beach, New York, USA.
I am rather disturbed to hear that Trina Vargo, formerKennedy adviser, is so against legalising illegal Irish immigrants inthe US. I know many of the Irish here with young American children whoare leaving the US in droves.
They are replaced by Asians, many of them Muslims, whom US securitythen spends years monitoring. While legalising the Irish may beselective it amazes me that, with 50 million US citizens of Irishdescent, the Irish Government seems so powerless to help the diaspora.Israel, with only about 5 million, does not seem to have any problemwith legalising foreign Jews, but then the Jews stick together, whilethe Irish are so divided.
Many middle-class Irish here in the US who despise the undocumentedIrish forget the fact that many of them got in the back door, oftenillegally, in the past. But that was pre-9/11, of course.
Fr BRENDAN DUGGAN, St Mary's Church, Woodside, New York, USA.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Tue, Nov 20, 2007
Trina Vargo should stick to Hollywood galas and stop insulting Irish illegal migrants to the US who are trying to regularise their positions, argues Niall O'Dowd
Trina Vargo, who is head of the US-Ireland Alliance, wrote in a recent Irish Times article (Irish illegals not a special case, Opinion, November 16th) that advocates for the undocumented Irish in America should wait for comprehensive immigration reform rather than try and remedy their situation now.
She implied that Irish-American and Irish Government lobbying for green cards for their community and citizens was racist.
She said current efforts to pass legislation helping the Irish were "morally wrong" and were like putting "lipstick on that pig".
Those were deeply offensive remarks to those tens of thousands of Irish abroad whose futures, and in many cases that of their American-born children, are hanging in the balance.
The US-Ireland Alliance busies itself with an annual Hollywood gala, selling Ryder Cup executive boxes and sending well-heeled Americans, both elite college students and golfers, to Ireland.
Their president's intervention on this issue is puzzling. Making "moral" judgments on undocumented immigrants and their supporters is hardly the expressed aim of the alliance. It appears that board members were not consulted on this grand new project.
In the same edition of The Irish Times, Frank Sharry, executive director of the US National Immigration Forum and one of the most respected experts on the issue, said that a decade may pass before a comprehensive Bill even comes up for consideration so toxic has the issue become in US politics.
Unlike Vargo, Sharry said he was "supportive" of efforts to help the Irish undocumented now with a bilateral deal, but predicted a tough battle in the current climate. Yet it is the only route left, with comprehensive reform a mirage shimmering somewhere over the horizon.
Vargo knows this well, but is essentially telling the Irish undocumented they are "morally wrong" to pursue their own interests.
Luckily she was not around during the era of the Morrison and Donnelly visas which allowed an earlier generation to live freely in America after the Irish in America put together a major lobbying effort.
Those Bills also helped large numbers of immigrants from other countries who piggybacked on the Irish success.
This time around Vargo describes us as a "small group of Irish-Americans". We are anything but. Every major Irish organisation in the US bar the US-Ireland Alliance has signed up in full support of the efforts of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR).
The organisation itself now has over 17,000 members from coast to coast, and brought crowds of over 3,000 to Washington on three separate occasions last year. No other Irish organisation in recent memory has attracted such crowds.
Of course, undocumented Irish are not like the polished Mitchell scholars that the US-Ireland Alliance sends to Ireland every year. They tend to be nannies, waitresses, bartenders, construction workers, many of whom left Ireland before the Celtic Tiger.
They are decent people caught in an indecent situation. They are an inconvenient truth for people like Vargo who is secure with $20 million of Irish taxpayer funding and who prefers to mouth Celtic Tiger platitudes to friends in high places rather than worry about unwashed undocumented.
Yet those of us who have come from Ireland know differently, know the ebb and flow of Irish history, and know that as inevitably as night follows day a boom will be followed by a bust and the trail to America will open up again as it has for successive generations since the Famine.
There is an overwhelming need to try to settle the issue of undocumented Irish in the US for once and for all now before another generation begins to come.
There are already signs. At the recent US-Ireland Forum, Orla Kelleher, head of the Aisling Center in New York, reported a sharp increase in new immigrants coming for assistance to the centre in the past few months. That coincides with a weakening in the Irish economy.
The Irish Government and the Irish-American community are doing the best job possible in very difficult circumstances to deal with the issue.
Both the Government and ILIR agreed to work with each other and a number of other ethnic groups, including Hispanic and Asian, to have a comprehensive reform Bill passed. When that failed it was agreed that an effort to pass a bilateral deal would be made.
In that respect, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern has made repeated trips to try to secure such a deal. Recently the Dáil voted unanimously to try and secure passage of such a Bill.
As a former Senate staffer Vargo knows only too well that all US legislation, especially immigration law, is loaded with "special deals" that take account of bare-faced politics.
It is not such a dreadful sin, as Vargo would have us believe, for Irish-America to take cognisance of that fact. Chile, Singapore, Nicaragua and Australia are just some of the countries who have cut deals for themselves in recent years. I applaud those countries for their foresight.
Far from preventing others immigrate, a bilateral deal may well show how, in this current toxic atmosphere, the issue of undocumented can be dealt with in a creative way by different countries.
Vargo concludes her comments by stating "it is wrong for the Irish to suggest that 'no Mexican need apply'."
No Irish have ever stated such a thing to my knowledge, and to infer it is downright insulting. Perhaps she might consider sticking to Mitchell scholarships, golf tournaments and Hollywood galas.
Niall O'Dowd is founder and chairman of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform© 2007 The Irish Times
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Read it here.
Hopefully, Bertie read the Indo today and will get the message load and clear!!
Friday, November 16, 2007
Interestingly, Mr Ring says that not only is her organization, the US-Ireland Alliance, part-funded by the Irish taxpayer, she also supported the Irish undocumented last year.
If you are as incensed by this woman as we are, please email the letters editor of the Irish Times. If you're in the US, tell them how long you've been there. If you've a friend or family in the US, tell them how long they've been away. the email address is email@example.com If you need some inspiration, look at the great post here from Susan.
This is pure shite, this stuff about jobs for everyone in Ireland. If Ms Vargo took her head out of her **** she might take a look at our Irish undocumented and then she might take a look at the counties that they came from. There's feck all jobs in some places - as she would know if she actually went to Philadelphia, New York, Boston, San Francisco and Fort Lauderdale and actually MET some real Irish immigrants.
From the Irish Times, Fri, Nov 16, 2007
Irish-Americans trying to get a special deal only for Irish illegal migrants in the US are wrong, argues Trina Vargo
A small group of Irish-Americans is working to encourage the US Congress to carve out a special deal for illegal Irish immigrants, while leaving behind the millions of others in the same situation. They are wrong to single out one group for preferential treatment.
The US immigration system needs fixing, but it requires a comprehensive and united approach. The deportation of 12 million people is clearly not possible, and pragmatism favours efforts to create an earned path to citizenship for those in the US illegally. Sadly, that effort has been stalled.
But to support a special deal that would single out illegal Irish immigrants for preferential treatment would be morally wrong, could harm the US-Ireland relationship, damage the high regard in which Irish-Americans are held, and lead to a divisive debate in the US between the Hispanic community and the Irish-American community.
The Irish economy is strong, and a special deal is not justified on economic grounds. The majority of those attending the rallies for the illegal Irish immigrants are young people, people who came to the United States when jobs were plentiful at home.
These are not people who fled extreme economic hardship, political persecution, physical torture, or an undemocratic government. Jobs are so plentiful in Ireland that in recent years, Government officials have travelled to the US to urge the Irish to return home. It is to be celebrated that Ireland is now a country of wealth, prosperity and opportunity. Now one of the richest countries in the world, it is a not a place anyone has to leave.
Supporters of a special deal for the Irish say there is precedent, that this was done for Australia. What they neglect to point out is that those visas had nothing to do with illegal immigrants. They were about trade agreements and facilitating the movement of professionals to the US. They were temporary visas subject to stringent eligibility requirements. The visas were only available to those with specific professional skills and for specific jobs pursuant to trade agreements.
There is also talk of trying to mask a "special deal" by cloaking it in innocuous immigration provisions but this is just an attempt to, as they say on Wall Street, "put lipstick on that pig".
There are other ways for the Irish to come to the US. Those advocating a special deal for the Irish argue that the Irish don't qualify under most of the existing schemes. In fact, they do. The lobby for the illegal Irish immigrants complains that, in 2005, of 1.2 million people getting green cards the Irish got only 2,000. Yet Spain, with 10 times the population of Ireland, received fewer green cards. Portugal, with two and a half times the population, also received fewer green cards.
Ireland is a country of little more than four million people. Proportionate to population, the UK, Italy, Germany, and France all did less well than the Irish. And of Irish citizens who recently applied in Ireland for any kind of visa to the US, less than 3 per cent were refused.
The overall numbers of Irish coming to the US have decreased because fewer Irish wish to move here. It is difficult to know exactly how many illegal Irish immigrants are in the United States. Some have suggested between 20,000 and 60,000 but that's a guess and these calculations do not take into account the many thousands of Irish who have returned to Ireland in the last several years. A recent Wall Street Journal article noted that the Irish sport of hurling is dying in the US because there are too few Irishmen to play it because "the strong Irish economy is keeping people from emigrating or drawing them back home". It noted that there were 128,000 Irish-born residents of the US in 2005, whereas there were 156,000 in 2000. In 1980, there had been about 290,000.
The success of the Irish economy is a good thing. It is understandable that most people prefer to live in their home countries. Those who came to the US during the Famine and even as late as the 1980s mainly did so out of economic necessity. The Irish economy experienced unprecedented levels of growth in recent years and the success of the Irish economy has benefited America as well. Ireland is now one of the largest foreign investors in the US. Irish companies are now in over 1,300 locations throughout the 50 US states employing 74,600. Ireland ranked fifth in a recent survey of real estate investors in the US. The relationship is indeed vibrant.
I fear, however, that if the future of the US-Ireland relationship rests on Irish immigration, the relationship will falter. Those who care about the relationship should note and expand upon the business and cultural ties, academic and student exchanges, as well as legal immigration. The constant flow of citizens between our two countries is a positive thing that should be nurtured. But given the success of the Irish economy, the future of the US- Ireland relationship will be based more on innovation, imagination, cultivation, and communication, than on immigration. This is to be embraced.
I am very aware of the incalculable contributions the Irish have made, and will continue to make, to America. I am fully supportive of legalising the Irish, but along with everyone else, not at the expense of anyone else. Many Irish remember that their ancestors who arrived in America in the 19th century were greeted with discrimination and were told "no Irish need apply".
It would be wrong for the Irish now to suggest that "no Mexican need apply".
Trina Vargo is the founder and president of the US-Ireland Alliance© 2007 The Irish Times
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Fine Gael Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Spokesperson, Michael Ring TD, has said that the Fianna Fail Government appeared to have abandoned the undocumented Irish in the US just one week after agreeing to a cross-party Dáil motion supporting a bilateral agreement between Ireland and the States.
"Today in the Dáil I asked the Taoiseach why we still had not heard about plans for an urgent visit by him to the USA in order to progress a bilateral agreement between Ireland and the States. This follows the Government's acceptance of Fine Gael proposals on this only last week, leading to an agreed motion which attracted the support of the entire Dáil.
"The Taoiseach obviously doesn't have much respect for the Dáil or much care for the undocumented Irish since he chose to not even respond to my question and remained silent when it was put to him again by the Fine Gael Leader.
"I have stressed that this issue is at a critical juncture and that the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs must urgently travel to the States to try and close this deal. With no action one week after they signed up their support for a bilateral agreement, I must conclude that they were only paying lip service to the undocumented Irish and lack the will to back it up."