Friday 31 October 2014

Illegal Irish could travel home with US bill

Published 12/06/2013 | 09:58

Efforts to assist Irish immigrants in achieving US citizen status has yielded some positive results.

Over the past few decades, many Irish citizens have travelled across the Atlantic looking for better opportunities than their native country could perhaps provide. Unfortunately, a large proportion of these immigrants that have formed new lives in America have been unable to return home to visit family and friends – as their stay was officially deemed illegal by the federal government.  But this trend may now be set to change.

Last night, a landmark immigration bill was passed by a landslide after the US Senate agreed to advance the Act.  The 867-page bill entitled “Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013” was approved by a voted of 84-15. The Gang of Eight – four Democrats and four Republicans in the Senate – created the bill in an ambitious effort to improve the existing legal immigration system in the US.

Ireland, and a small number of other nations, including South Korea and Poland, have been successful in their lobbying efforts to secure country-specific addendum paragraphs to the detailed immigration bill that give their citizens benefits not necessarily extended to other foreigners.

As per the current proposal, 10,500 Irish graduates annually could receive work visas generally reserved for foreigners considered “highly-skilled”. If the legislation comes to fruition, experienced workers should also find it easier to gain citizenship, allowing them to travel back and forth to Ireland whenever they wished.

Hours before the voting took place, Obama announced his eagerness to act rapidly: “There's no reason Congress can't get this done by the end of the summer. There's no good reason to play procedural games or engage in obstruction just to block the best chance we've had in years to address this problem in a way that's fair to middle-class families, business owners and legal immigrants.”

An unnamed Irish-American group, working with the Irish Embassy, had employed the services of former Representative Bruce Morrison, Democrat of Connecticut, to help push the cause, according to the New York Times last month, arguing that certain changes in law decades ago created an unfair barrier to citizens of Ireland in gaining access to the US.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has also reportedly lent some support, making the case with President Obama in Washington when he travelled over for the St. Patrick’s Day festivities earlier this year.

The proposals have drawn some degree of criticism from some US quarters who are concerned that the additional provisions may encourage an influx of foreigners, undermining US workers looking for opportunities in an already struggling American economy.

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