Thursday, July 11, 2013

In Boston 10,000 undocumented Irish wait anxiously for news on immigration bill

Niall O’Dowd – Irish Central - July 11, 2013
Boston: Father John McCarthy is the emigrant chaplain at St. Brendan’s parish in Dorchester, a Boston neighborhood.

He has been on loan for more years that he cares to remember from the diocese of Limerick.

As an emigrant and pastor he is passionate about the emigrants from Ireland he takes care of and estimates there are 10,000 Irish undocumented among his far flung flock.

These days he is a worried man, worried about
whether immigration reform will pass this time at last.
“We have so many people just hanging on, desperate really” he says “ I know it is the same in other communities, but the Irish undocumented need this bill desperately.”

Looking after the undocumented is a huge part of his mission at the nearby Irish Pastoral Center.

Several times a week he visits Irish prisoners in Boston area jails. He is an old fashioned man of the cloth, a doer not a preacher and a huge admirer of Pope Francis and the humility and grace he has quickly come to represent.

He has faith in American goodness, that the extraordinary goodwill and kindness he sees every day towards the less fortunate will also prevail in the immigration battle.

“I don’t know what people will do if it does not pass.”, he said. “Our hopes are sky high, it would allow them to contribute so much to America and American life.”
Father John made St. Brendan’s parish hall where the parishioners are 25 percent Irish available to the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, an organization I co-founded with Ciaran Staunton.
Our task in Boston on Wednesday night was to inform the 100 or so Irish who attended the meeting about what was happening on immigration reform.
It is clear that the dream of reform is what keeps this Irish neighborhood alive, I met a woman who was undocumented for 22 years until her American son passed the age of 21 and made her legal.

How did it feel?: “I can't describe it,” she said. “I just hope others can achieve it too.”

I spoke to someone else who told me how undocumented Irish drivers pick routes that take them through neighborhoods they know Irish American cops police, so that if they are stopped for having no license they may be treated leniently.

It is this life of subterfuge and underground existence that the new reform bill would sweep away in an instant. The contribution to America of such people from wherever in the world would be all that greater.

In Boston, the most Irish city in America, the new generation of Irish, most undocumented, wait and whisper hope.

“Please God this time,” says Father John, a hugely popular figure. “It would be a crushing blow if it does not happen.”

Let’s hope it does.
If there are, in actual fact, 10,000 undocumented Irish in Boston waiting for immigration reform legislation to pass in the U.S. Congress, it is very sad that the organizers of this “informational meeting” could only entice “100 or so” people to attend. Those numbers are reminiscent of a similar meeting that was organized by the same group in Quincy a few years ago. At the Quincy venue which I attended, I would estimate there were about 70 people and out of that number, there were approximately 20 to 25 who were undocumented Irish nationals The remaining number were established Irish Americans who were there to learn from then U.S. Congressman Bill Delahunt about the progress of immigration legislation that was being debated in Congress at that time. The dismal attendance at both of these well advertised meetings is a very clear testimonial to the less than effective organizational skills of both the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform and its “leadership”. It would appear that the only thing that has changed from then until now is the calendar.
Jack Meehan, Past National President
Ancient Order of Hibernians in America
Past AOH National Chairman of Immigration
2011 Golden Bridges Award Recipient  (for my decades of work on behalf of undocumented Irish nationals)

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