09 March 2006

Bertie to plead with Bush for 25,000 Irish in US

Belfast Telegraph

By Gene McKenna
09 March 2006

US President George W Bush will next week be asked to allow up to 25,000 undocumented Irish regularise their status in the US.

Both Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern will raise the issue at the St Patrick's Day ceremonies in the White House tomorrow week as they did on the same occasion at the ceremonies last year.

Irish-American campaign have now formed a major group, the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, which had a rally in New York's Gaelic Park on Sunday and yesterday organised a march to Capitol Hill in Washington. During eight visits to the US last year, Dermot Ahern held a series of top-level meetings with Senators and Congressmen in New York, Washington and Boston to press for a breakthrough which would help bring about a resolution to the problem.

He is expected to meet the leader of the Irish lobby group, Niall O'Dowd, again in Washington next week.

Many emigrants have found themselves in traumatic situations in having to decide whether to stay in the US or return home to visit sick relatives with the risk that they would not be allowed back into the US.

The Kennedy-McCain Bill put forward by Senators Ted Kennedy (Democrats) and John McCain (Republican) is still believed to be a long way from being approved.

Under this Bill, undocumented people could regularise their status by applying for a temporary residency visa.

They would receive work and travel authorisation, which would provide them with greater protection in the work place and allow them to travel to and from Ireland without fear of being refused re-entry to the US.

What distinguishes the Kennedy/McCain Bill from other proposals is that it includes a path to permaHnent residency. Official estimates here of the number of undocumented Irish living in the US range from 20,000 to 25,000.

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