Campaigners on behalf of undocumented Irish immigrants in the United States are pressing for a special immigration deal for Ireland after the US Senate rejected a comprehensive reform Bill.
The vote almost certainly spelt the end of comprehensive immigration reform until after the 2008 presidential and congressional elections.
Senator Edward Kennedy, one of the main architects of the Bill, said its defeat would serve to increase illegal immigration, make America less secure and allow sweatshops and exploitation to continue.
Niall O’Dowd, chairman of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform said it may yet be possible to seek a special deal for Irish immigrants.
“In some ways it’s easier because you’re not trying to deal with an overwhelming reality for Americans. You’re talking about a much smaller number of people,” he said.
Sinn Féin’s Sean Crowe has said the issue of illegal immigrants in the US would have to be dealt with sooner rather than later. Crowe, who has visited the US on a number of occasions to lobby for immigration reform, was speaking after the Immigration Reform Bill was defeated.
Crowe called for a renewed effort from all those involved in the campaign despite what he said would be a “bitterly disappointing” setback for the thousands of undocumented Irish in the US and their families and friends at home here in Ireland.
“The undocumented Irish in the US work very hard and make a huge contribution to the US economy,” he said.
“They play a full, positive and progressive role in the community, sporting, cultural social fabric and every other aspect of American Society. And they want to continue playing that role and, if given legal status, even greater roles in the new homes and communities in which they live in.
“They have made good lives for themselves and are very much at home in the US.
“However, the fear of not being allowed re-enter has meant that they are effectively cut off from their families here at home. Visits home for family get-togethers, weddings or even funerals are all out of the question.
“While the failure to pass the Reform Bill is a huge blow to the campaign it is imperative that we re-double our efforts. There is an important role for politicians on this side of the Atlantic to show their support for this campaign.
“We need to send a clear message to America that we want to see full recognition of the Irish contribution to American society and the American economy.”
IRELAND OF OPPORTUNITY
* A Nigerian man who arrived in Ireland seven years ago seeking asylum has created history by becoming Ireland’s first black mayor.
Cllr Rotimi Adebari was elected to Portlaoise Town Council in 2004 and has now taken the chain of office under a mayoral pact which sees the position rotate among the Fine Gael/Sinn Féin/Independent members of the council.
Mr Adebari arrived in Dublin with his wife and two children in 2000 fleeing religious persecution. After a few weeks the family settled in Portlaoise in the midlands.
Speaking of his election, he said: “I would want to use my year [as Mayor] to say to immigrants coming here that this is a land of opportunities and it is a country that is described as a place of a thousand welcomes.
“The people of Portlaoise have not only said that, but they have acted on it by electing me to the town council”.