Irish lobby gear up for visa battle in bid to make undocumented Irish legal in U.S.
ILIR set for major campaign to help more irish come to U.S. and legalize those here
As the Senate Judiciary Committee kicks off what is expected to be a lengthy process of debating and amending the immigration bill on Thursday, the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR), the group dedicated to creating a new legal pathway for the Irish in America, is gearing up for a major battle.
They will hold a fundraiser on Thursday, May 23 to bolster its lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C.
“This is now probably the last opportunity the Irish American community has to address the long term issue of legal access to America for Irish immigrants,” ILIR president Ciaran Staunton told the Irish Voice.
To make the push for comprehensive reform, ILIR has organized in almost every state with Irish American communities, Staunton explains. “This is the last opportunity for Irish America to pry open the golden door for those who want to come here from Ireland,” he adds.
Since the last big effort to achieve reform several years ago with Senators Edward Kennedy and John McCain leading the effort, ILIR has stayed working on Capitol Hill, Staunton explains. A perception among some (or more accurately most) in the Irish community that the lobby group had wound down many of its operations is inaccurate said Staunton.
“In the last number of years we’ve built up relationships on both sides of the aisle with very senior people in the House and Senate. The last two major immigration initiatives in 1965 and 1986 in the United States had huge effects on the Irish community and their effects are still being felt,” he said.
“The 1965 Act locked us out,” Staunton explains. “We weren’t at the table for the 1986 Act other than to get the Donnelly and the short term Morrison visas. So when the hearing on the new bill commences in Washington ILIR will retain consultants and lobbyists on both sides of the aisle, and we will also follow up on all the support it has secured around the country.”
Behind the scenes the relationships ILIR has built with senators and other leaders has continued.
“This is not the time for the previous big demonstrations we took to Washington,” Deirdre Foy, a volunteer ILIR activist explained about the large-scale rallies ILIR organized during the Kennedy-McCain efforts.
“This is the time to quietly win over lawmakers to our side. Now is the time to fundraise to support our continuing efforts.”
To that end the second annual Annie Moore Awards, named in honor of the Irish girl who was the first passenger registered through the immigration station at Ellis Island in 1892, will be held to honor prominent Irish Americans for their ongoing efforts on behalf of the Irish immigrant community.
This year ILIR has chosen to honor Brendan Murray, president of the Newport Group, a leading financial services firm, with the Patrick J. Donaghy Award, named after the retired chairman and founder of Structure Tone.
One can only hope that every other group and individual in the U.S. who has labored long and hard to resolve the plight of our undocumented Irish nationals currently living in the U.S. and to secure a “fair and equitable U.S. immigration policy for the Irish” will take note of the recognition that Mr. Staunton has so generously bestowed on their efforts in this self aggrandizing diatribe. He has long been a “poster boy” for the old adage, “self praise is no recommendation” and it appears as though he still subscribes to that theory. I can assure you that when immigration reform finally becomes a reality, it will be the result of years of dedication and hard work by many more concerned groups than ILIR and many more individuals than Mr. Ciaran Staunton.
Jack Meehan, Past National President
Ancient Order of Hibernians in America