To all Hibernians,
I, for one, am deeply disappointed and more than mildly disturbed that the recent press release, as well as the letter sent to President Obama, from the A.O.H. National Board, makes no mention whatsoever other then a paltry single sentence on one of the most pressing issues facing the Irish in America today - that of Irish immigration.
There are an estimated 40 - 50 thousand Irish nationals living in the United States today in an undocumented status. The vast majority of these people came here legally on the visa waiver program. Subsequently, they found that the United States offered them far more opportunity to make a better life for themselves than was available in Ireland. They decided to stay in violation of the terms of their visa waiver. To be sure, this was wrong and I am not trying to condone it, but overstaying is merely a misdemeanor in U.S. federal law not a felony.
We, as Hibernians, are bound by our national constitution to work on behalf of Irish immigrants. Our advocacy for them has been one of our major duties since our inception in 1836. The resolution to the plight of the undocumented Irish in the U.S. is not an insurmountable problem and it can be achieved if a sufficient amount of political will on the part of both nations to do so was applied. Unlike other issues mentioned in the press release and the letter to President Obama, there is no third nation involved in the resolution to the plight of the undocumented Irish.
I also believe, very strongly, that a permanent resolution to the plight of undocumented Irish nationals currently living in the U.S. must be reached before expending political capital on any legislation which would allow more Irish to come here on non-immigrant (temporary) visas such as the E-3 Program between the U.S. and Australia. The E-3 Visa Program as it is currently written does nothing to alleviate the problems of undocumented Irish nationals currently living in the United States.
Speaking as a former A.O.H. National Chairman of Immigration, it is my honest belief that the immediate need for a change in U.S. immigration policy that would provide a resolution to the undocumented Irish issue should take preference over issues that took place over 30 years ago.
Jack Meehan, Past National President
Ancient Order of Hibernians in America