My Reply to AOH Political Education Committee Letter
This is obviously a point of view taken from the lofty position of an American citizen who, very frankly, has no idea of what it is like living with the myriad of problems weighing on the minds of our undocumented Irish nationals currently living in the U.S. It takes a great deal more than attendance at a few meetings of well intended but, for the most part, people who have, at best, no more than a very vague idea of these problems. I could repeat a laundry list of the problems that the undocumented live with every day but it would serve no purpose as the only ones who genuinely care are those who are directly affected.
Anyone who believes that our Irish nationals currently living here "out of status" are satisfied in any way with the proposed "Irish E-3 Visa" is wrong. Their emotions run from deeply disappointed to thoroughly disgusted. They feel that they are nothing more than "collateral damage" in a game of political football. In actual fact, their very unenviable immigration status will not change whether this totally inadequate piece of legislation passes or it does not so a growing number of them simply do not care anymore.
The apprehensions, prolonged detentions, and eventual deportations by ICE for very minor infractions, unfortunately, will continue on a regular basis. The vast majority of our undocumented Irish say that all they ever wanted to do was make a life for themselves that is unattainable in Ireland because of the depressed economy and lack of work and in the process contribute to the betterment of this great nation. Many feel that if legislation can't be passed sooner rather than later that would allow them to adjust their status to that of a permanent resident, they might as well leave here and go to Australia, Canada, Britain or take their chances back home in Ireland. America would, very clearly, be the loser if they decide they have no other choice but to leave.
Maybe, just maybe, this will begin to convince you that there is a different point of view than the "half a loaf is better than none" school of thought. It is held primarily by those who are the empty handed recipients of the "none half of the loaf".
As usual, the implication in the diatribe below is that I am taking this position to cause controversy. This is absolutely incorrect. Let me be very clear and unambiguous when I say that I take this position in strong support of our undocumented Irish nationals purely and simply because it is the right position to take. I have absolutely nothing to gain or lose by taking it other than the personal satisfaction that comes with knowing that you did the right thing.
Jack Meehan, Past National President
Ancient Order of Hibernians in America
Irish E3 Visa Immigration Controversy
AOH National Political Education Committee
In the Irish E3 Visa we have again a non controversy made into controversy, which seems to happen fairly often in today’s society and 24 hour news.
The membership of the Ancient Order of Hibernians America and Ladies AOH are required by the Constitutions of our Orders to work for fair Immigration Laws in the United States. Moving the undocumented Irish to legal status is the primary goal of our Order and that has never changed.
In the early 1980’s The AOH/LAOH leaders, along with other Irish Immigration groups, in moving more than 100,000 Irish undocumented to legality. Several Congressmen are heroes today because of those efforts; Bruce Morrision and Brian Donnelly being two that readily come to mind in these efforts. These men and others made sure that the Irish gained their fair share of the Donnelly/Morrision Lottery Visas before they added their votes to the omnibus bill, using compromise and political skills, to pass it. The goal of legalization and fair immigration laws are bound together and yet if you can gather a victory on the way, why not.
First, we need to honor the Irish Government that has never lost sight of their citizens who are undocumented here in the United States. Irish diplomats work constantly and diligently with American diplomats and other immigrant groups as they did in 1986.
Second and just as important, is our Catholic Church, which is constantly working to legalize the undocumented to allow them to live normal lives as they have since the beginning of immigration laws.
In a recent meeting of about 40 activists in NYC at the Irish Consulate, chaired by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny, there were three priorities involved on immigration the Irish Government sees in their remit. Present were representatives from Immigration Centers across the United States, Immigration Groups, and the AOH.
1. How the groups, cooperating with the Consulates and Embassies, are aiding, supporting, and working to legalize the undocumented.
2. How are we caring for elderly Irish immigrants here in the United States, documented and undocumented, who have grown older and in some cases may be alone?
3. The potential for the E3 Visa.
The Immigrant Centers are in all of these issues but especially 1 and 2, their leaders and supporters made up the biggest portion of the attendees. Day to day immigrant centers work with the undocumented and they are gaining little pieces of legalization every day but it is a slog as it was in the 1980s. We do not see the E3or Legalization as mutually exclusive. The E3 will not negatively affect legalization and may be another tool to help move the undocumented to a legal status.
The Immigrant Center representatives at the meeting were mostly documented but more than a half dozen attendees raised their hand when asked if there were undocumented. There was zero bitterness among the undocumented and one young woman said, “We are not about pulling the ladder up after us.”
As we can see it is not a choice between the E3 and legalization but an opportunity to gather 10,000+ Visas for the Irish to work in the United States legally as have citizens of Chile, Australia, and several other nations. In some cases there will be fewer young Irish taking an illegal chance if we can pass the E3 and make it work for them.
The E3 is an opportunity for Senator Schumer and Brown, along with Toomey and others to piggyback on a piece of legislation just as Donnelly and Morrision did in 1986. No such legislation is available, at the moment, to do the same with legalizing the undocumented. Does that mean that we shouldn’t take a "bird in hand" and instead stubbornly wait for the two in the bush to jump into our hands?
We need to work together and communicate so that we know when opportunities for the undocumented Irish are on the horizon and move quickly to take advantage of these opportunities as we are doing now with the E3.
We do not see a controversy here only an opportunity. BTW Bruce Morrision was at the NYC meeting