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Tuesday 17 October 2017

Reform bill gives new hope to Irish illegals in US

Patricia McDonagh

TENS of thousands of undocumented Irish in the US were last night given renewed hope as the immigration reform bill moved back onto the political agenda.

Following a deal reached by Democrat and Republican leaders, the immigration reform bill will be considered for another term, despite fears it would be shelved last week. If passed on July 4, the bill would create a new Z-Visa, allowing those currently living in the US illegally to work upon payment of a fine and to eventually apply for a green card.

It would also create a guest-worker programme, allowing Irish people to spend a short time in the country.

Although greeted by the Irish immigration lobby, the pressure group admitted reservations regarding some of the "punitive measures" in the bill

"We are very pleased," said president of the group Niall O'Dowd. "It's a huge turnaround from a week ago when the process looked completely dead in the water.

"However, we have a lot of reservations, particularly about the future flow of immigrants. We still don't know if they will be entitled to immigrate legally, as the language is undecided." Despite this, O'Dowd says the lobby is prepared to put any reservations behind it if the most important principle, the legalisation of the undocumented Irish, is gained.

"It's not the perfect bill, but it does have the most important principle - giving Irish people who are already here legal status. At the moment, people can't go home and they can't drive.

"The clampdown on illegal status is becoming tighter every day and it is becoming harder for Irish people living here." Coupled with the bill are plans for a $4.4bn (€3.2bn) border security plan which would enable officials to keep tabs on the number of people entering the country.

According to Mr O'Dowd, this is a "carrot" to get hard-nosed Republicans to vote for the controversial immigration reform bill.

"I think that President Bush felt that they had to be given some incentive to vote for such a controversial bill," he said.

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