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Irish Voice News
ILIR Responds: Who Is Misleading Who?
April 16, 2008
THE retiring Taoiseach Bertie Ahern ends his opinion piece by noting that “we should and must work together” on the issue of the Irish undocumented, after spending most of the previous paragraphs attacking the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform.
It is a surprising way to advocate cooperation. It is unfortunately the work of a man at the end of his political career looking backwards rather than forward, and perhaps trying to settle a score that was much better left alone as ILIR was definitely prepared to do.
ILIR and the Irish government worked closely together from the inception of ILIR in December 2005, until it became apparent a few months back that the Irish government, while stating one policy publicly, was actually pursuing another policy entirely in private.
That policy, aimed at securing student-type J-1 visas for future flows of immigrants, was effectively useless to the Irish undocumented.
When we realized that we told the Irish government and the community so. The reaction from the government, including this op-ed from the taoiseach, has been to continue to deny that is what they are doing.
But the evidence is clear. In our White House meeting with Ed Gillespie, counselor to the president, and several staffers, the only policy position they referred to that they had heard from the Irish government was the extension of the student visa scheme.
The government needs to tell the truth about this. It is they who have been spinning false hope to the undocumented community.
Perhaps we should not be surprised that they seem willing to do so. This is the same taoiseach who attacked Irish community leaders on St. Patrick’s Day as people who “are really talking from the position of sitting in the bar, talking nonsense.”
Hurling juvenile insults at our community was surely beneath the taoiseach, but he also threw in an incorrect statement that we were seeking an “amnesty” for illegals.
We were not. What we had put forward in conjunction with former Congressman Bruce Morrison was a modified version of the E-3 non-immigrant visa which Australia receives which allows 10,000 work visas a year for Australian citizens.
The modified language included a possible way for undocumented to return to Ireland and thus become eligible for one of those visas, as had happened with the Morrison visas.
We held talks with several senior politicians on Capitol Hill on this and we were working closely with a senior senator on the issue.
We have extensive experience working on the immigration issue from our time helping pass the Morrison and Donnelly visa issues -- both of which the Iirsh government of the day opposed originally.
. ILIR has marshaled the most effective Irish lobby in decades and brought thousands to Capitol Hill for our rallies which were attended by, among others, Senators John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Edward Kennedy.
So we will match our experience and that of our advisor Bruce Morrison on Capitol Hill with that of the government anytime. Perhaps they are the ones unable to realize the way forward.
We know it is a difficult lift, but unlike the government we are definitely not prepared to give up the fight. We certainly hope the taoiseach’s successor Brian Cowen will see it that way too.
We hope that the government and the Irish American community can come back together and work on this issue in the near future.
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