Sinn Fein has backed a campaign on behalf of undocumented Irish immigrants in the United States.
Sinn Fein TD Sean Crowe last week spoke a rally in support for the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform rally on Capitol Hill in Washington DC.
High profile speakers included the former first lady and frontrunner for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton, and Senator Ted Kennedy.
Speaking at the rally, Deputy Crowe congratulated the organisers and said the proposed new McCain/Kennedy Bill had the potential to provide a pathway to citizenship for thousands of undocumented Irish Americans.
Deputy Crowe said, “Regardless of people’s politics, the issue of undocumented Irish Americans and all the hardships that go with such status has to be resolved in a humane manner. I believe the new McCain Kennedy Bill provides the way forward. It represents a pathway to citizenship for the many thousands of undocumented Irish Americans.
“I would like to congratulate and thank the organisers of today’s rally for keeping this issue well and truly on the political landscape. It is imperative that we come to a successful conclusion of this matter.
“The fear of not being allowed re-enter the US, where many Irish people have made good lives for themselves, has meant that these people have been cut off from their families and their native country.
“This has caused much hardship for the undocumented Irish and for their families back home in Ireland and has meant visits, holidays, weddings and even funerals in Ireland are out of the question.
“We must remember that the undocumented Irish work very hard and make a powerful contribution to American social life the economy. It is now time for them to be granted citizenship.”
Estimates of the number of undocumented Irish people residing in the US vary, ranging from 20,000 to 50,000. There are thought to be about 12 million undocumented immigrants in the US as a whole.
The rally was the culmination of a day that also saw Irish ‘illegals’ and their supporters walk the corridors of Capitol Hill seeking allies. Irish activists arrived in Washington from New York, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Cleveland and several other cities. Organisers estimated that 3,000 people attended.
The ILIR is seeking legislation that would provide Irish illegal immigrants already in the US with a path of American citizenship, and also make greater provision for Irish immigration in the future.
Sinn Fein has pledged to raise the issue when party leaders visit DC during St. Patrick’s week.
The ILIR will also attempt to raise support among people in Ireland on the immigration issue with a ‘Friends and Family’ meeting in Jurys Hotel in Dublin, on April 14.