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'I haven't been home in 16 years, this won't change that'

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Lorella Praeli, Chela Praeli and Ligia Jimenez (L-R) listen to U.S. President Barack Obama speak about immigration reform, but John Cunningham (35), from Donegal but living in Boston for almost 16 years, says there is nothing in the new reforms for undocumented Irish like him and the heartbreak of missing funerals, weddings and other occasions is likely to continue (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Lorella Praeli, Chela Praeli and Ligia Jimenez (L-R) listen to U.S. President Barack Obama speak about immigration reform, but John Cunningham (35), from Donegal but living in Boston for almost 16 years, says there is nothing in the new reforms for undocumented Irish like him and the heartbreak of missing funerals, weddings and other occasions is likely to continue (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

REUTERS

Family members Ana Maria Patino (L), Delia Patino (C), and Rafael Patino (R), become emotional while watching U.S. President Barack Obama's national address in Phoenix. Obama imposed the most sweeping immigration reform in a generation on Thursday, easing the threat of deportation for about 4.7 million undocumented immigrants and setting up a clash with Republicans. But the reforms do little to change John's situation (REUTERS/Deanna Dent )

Family members Ana Maria Patino (L), Delia Patino (C), and Rafael Patino (R), become emotional while watching U.S. President Barack Obama's national address in Phoenix. Obama imposed the most sweeping immigration reform in a generation on Thursday, easing the threat of deportation for about 4.7 million undocumented immigrants and setting up a clash with Republicans. But the reforms do little to change John's situation (REUTERS/Deanna Dent )

REUTERS

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Lorella Praeli, Chela Praeli and Ligia Jimenez (L-R) listen to U.S. President Barack Obama speak about immigration reform, but John Cunningham (35), from Donegal but living in Boston for almost 16 years, says there is nothing in the new reforms for undocumented Irish like him and the heartbreak of missing funerals, weddings and other occasions is likely to continue (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

While Barack Obama's plans are welcome news for thousands of Irish not everyone will benefit.

John Cunningham (35), from Donegal but living in Boston for almost 16 years, says there is nothing in the new reforms for undocumented Irish like him and the heartbreak of missing funerals, weddings and other occasions is likely to continue.

John left his native Glencolmcille in 1999, just after he finished secondary school. As an unmarried and undocumented immigrant, the reforms do little to change his situation.

"My take on it is I'm not jumping up and down about the reforms. It's a lot less than what is needed," he told the Irish Independent from Boston last night where he works as an electrical contractor.

"The plus side is that this has the potential to help Irish people who have children born here. Obviously because if their children were born here, they're US citizens and this will now give people the opportunity to become legal here and get work permits.

"But for the majority of undocumented people it doesn't benefit them at all. There's nothing in it for the rest - for people who arrived over here when they weren't children and haven't had children here.

He added: "I'm 16 years here in this country and I haven't been home in 16 years. There's nothing for people in this situation. Nowhere in the speech was there anything about creating avenues to allow people home."

He is critical of the Republican Party who he says have engaged in "dirty politics" but adds they have offered no alternative solutions.

"The reforms will allow people to stop watching over their shoulder and will make the quality of life a lot, lot better. But at the same time, when Christmas comes, or there is a bereavement in the family, they still will not be able to travel home."

Irish Independent