07 February 2006

Plea over undocumented Irish in US

Irish Examiner

07/02/2006 - 11:49:31 AM

Councils in the Republic were today urged to join an all-island campaign to prevent 25,000 undocumented Irish immigrants in the United States becoming the victim of tough new laws.

SDLP Assembly member PJ Bradley has written to every county and city council manager in the Republic urging them to debate the impact on illegal Irish immigrants of anti-terrorism plans by US President George W Bush.

The South Down MLA said: “Many people have yet to realise the determination of the US Government to introduce stringent anti-terrorism measures.

“There are currently over 50 proposals in the form of Draft Bills up for debate and many of these are being openly supported by Democrats and Republicans alike.

“It will require a significant degree of lobbying to influence the thinking of both Congress and the Senate, but lobby we must.

“I have been in touch with every county and city council manager in the south of Ireland requesting them to table the issue for discussion in their council chambers and to lend their support to our undocumented in America.

“The SDLP has already commenced the process by introducing Notices of Motion for discussion in all 26 councils in the North.”

In November President Bush began lobbying for stronger immigration controls.

His plans include tighter security along the Mexican frontier but also moves to permit migrants with a job offer to stay in the US temporarily for three years with the possibility of a three-year extension if they return to their home countries for a year to apply for a new work permit.

Alternative proposals have also been tabled by Republican Senators John Kyl and John Cornyn and Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy and Republican John McCain.

There are estimated to be around 11 million undocumented workers in the United States, amongst them 25,000 Irish.

Last month SDLP deputy leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell met the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform in New York, which involves prominent Irish American businessmen such as Irish Voice publisher Niall O’Dowd and former Congressman Bruce Morrison.

The group was formed to ensure Irish immigrants do not get left behind in any deal on the US legislation.

Mr Bradley said today the SDLP and the immigration lobby group supported the Kennedy/McCain Bill because it would at least give the undocumented an opportunity to obtain a green card.

“It would allow those that were residing in America on 12th May 2005 the opportunity to register by paying a $1000 registration fee and submitting their names for a background check,” he said.

“But at least when all checks are found to be satisfactory a green card should be forthcoming. “

The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform has staged a number of rallies in New York and Philadelphia, with others planned for Boston on Thursday, in Queen’s in New York, San Francisco and Washington.

Their inaugural meeting in Yonkers in New York saw over 1,000 people sign up to the campaign.

Mr Bradley said: “People living here with relatives working in the US should advise them of the pending meetings and of the information they can obtain by attending.”

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