Congressman urges patience, resolve at ILIR meeting
By Michael Norby – Irish Emigrant – March 1, 2010
Those gathered were told to mobilize even though immigration reform looks set to be delayed until next year.
In his district of Quincy last Saturday afternoon (Feb. 27), Congressman William Delahunt addressed a large audience and offered a frank but hopeful assessment of the current state of immigration reform efforts. Speaking at the Tirrell Room on Quarry Street, the veteran politician said that it was unlikely, due to mid-term elections, that immigration reform would be given priority this year.
“The environment in Washington is best described as toxic,” said Delahunt. “These are difficult times. Ever since the financial markets reached the verge of catastrophic collapse last year, we’ve been in a difficult position and the mood is ugly.
“That has an affect on the debate on comprehensive immigration reform. Members of the House and Senate are nervous because they are standing for election this year,” he added.
With healthcare reform, the economy, and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq sure to grab the majority of the headlines in the run-up to the November mid-terms, Delahunt, a member of the judiciary committee, urged those gathered to show resolve.
“We are running out of time,” he said. “I really want to be honest with you. On August 1, we stand in recess. Then September and October will revolve around those who are seeking re-election or are running for open seats and then we get ready for the Christmas holidays. It will be difficult to find time in the legislative calendar to address the issue.”
After many years of rallies, meetings, phone calls and promises from elected officials to finally bring the matter to a successful conclusion, a further delay may not have been what undocumented Irish men and women wanted to hear, but Delahunt indicated that a lot more preparation work can be done in the meantime.
“This is a constant struggle,” he said. “If it doesn’t come to the floor of the house or the senate this year, we have to be back in 2011. I’ve made it very clear to my colleagues on the judiciary committee that if the Irish question is not solved to my satisfaction then I, and they, simply cannot support legislation that does not once and for all address the problem."
He called for Irish organizations and residents to flex their collective muscle to ensure that many more Irish-Americans and elected officials are fully educated about the plight of the undocumented in the United States.
“Now is the time to act,” he said. “There are so many Irish-Americans in congress that we have influence unlike any other ethnic minority in the country. Those of you in this room have to help us organize that influence.
“Identify those members who you believe you can influence,” he added. “There are too many Irish-Americans that don’t recognize the problems and most are unaware of how many young Irish men and women are living in the shadows.”
Those in attendance also heard words of support from former congressman Barry Morrison, Ciaran Staunton and Hugh Meehan from The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, Danny O’Connor, the national chair of the AOH, as well as representatives from the Irish Cultural Center and the GAA.
“There is no ethnic group in the country that should have the influence as significant as the American-Irish community," said Delahunt. "There exists a deep and profound affection for Ireland. Appeal to their conscience and talk about the morality of this issue.
The turnout for this event can only be described as dismal following a strong advertising campaign on the part of the ILIR. Estimates of the number those in attendance were given as approximately 100. Of that number, approximately 70 to 75 were established Irish Americans who were attending to show their support for the undocumented Irish. Congressman Delahunt’s remarks in this article were not entirely unexpected which may account for the very small number of undocumented Irish. Very frankly, they are growing weary of unfulfilled promises of immigration reform legislation that would allow them to resolve their very unenviable status and get on with their lives without the ever present stigma of illegality hanging over their heads. The U.S. government currently has an agreement with Australia that allows for 10,500 non-immigrant (temporary) visas per year to be issued to applicants from Australia with at least a Bachelor’s Degree and a promise of a job from a U.S. employer. The job must require the person filling it to have a degree. The general feeling in the undocumented Irish community in the Boston area seems to be that in consideration of all of the requirements, this type of visa would do nothing to resolve their plight. They are only interested in visas that would provide a pathway to permanent residency and eventually to American citizenship.