Irish Immigration Update

Posted By: August 21, 2013

The Editor of the Irish Echo in his column in the Irish News brings us up to date on Irish immigration prospects.


Ray O’ Hanlon. Irish News ( Belfast). Wednesday, August 21, 2013.

CONGRESS is away on a five week summer recess. ‘Broken’ Washington is at least quiet. But politics in a fractured time being what it is, there is precious little peace. The issues hang heavy like the August heat and there will be no respite as the dog days kick in. One of those issues is immigration reform, a heavy lift for the 435-member House of Representatives even with an already approved Senate reform bill to play with. Democrats in the House generally support comprehensive reform. Most Republicans do not, at least to the degree that the Senate has decided should be the case. But those Republicans that take issue with reform will be hearing it from those that support it during the recess. As the Washington DC-based political newspaper The Hill put it: “Business groups, tech companies and labour unions are bringing down the hammer on House Republicans over immigration reform. Supporters of immigration reform worry the August recess could be their Waterloo, and are planning events, rallies and editorial board meetings to keep their legislative push alive.” The story could have added in Irish reform campaigners because after weeks of comparative quiet, Irish lobbyists have been holding meetings, joining marches and getting on the wires to House Republicans at a time of year when heading for the beach or the hills is the more typical routine. Under American and Irish flags, the Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform took part in a recent march in the House district of Republican Congressman Pete Roskum, they did so to urge his support for reform. The New York-based Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform has lately held information meetings in Boston and New York while the Ancient Order of Hibernians, with its national network, is calling the district offices of specific House members to express support for reform in general, and also the Senate bill’s provision that would allow 10,500 qualifying Irish passport holders two-year, renewable E-3 visas – and not just for a limited number of years. The Irish E-3 provision is buried deep in the Senate bill.


It’s not a standalone, it’s language being attached to an existing immigration provision that offers E-3s to Australians. The E-3 paragraph in the Senate bill, which is hundreds of pages thick, promises to be the most significant legislative development in Irish migration to the United States in almost fifty years – but only if it is ultimately signed into law after full congressional approval. Here’s how it reads: “solely to perform services in a speciality occupation in the United States if the alien is a national of the Commonwealth of Australia, or solely to perform services as an employee and who has at least a high school education or its equivalent, or has, within 5 years, at least 2 years of work experience in an occupation which requires at least 2 years of training or experience if the alien is a national of the Republic of Ireland, and with respect to whom the secretary of labor determines and certifies to the secretary of homeland security and the secretary of state that the intending employer has filed with the secretary of labor an attestation under section 1182 (t)(1) of this title.” The reference to ‘national of the Republic of Ireland’ refers to citizenship so the proposal covers Northern Ireland if an applicant carries an Irish passport. Some have been wondering whether or not it might be possible to win approval for an Irish E-3 programme even if comprehensive reform stumbles.


It might be possible, but it’s highly unlikely. The Irish have hitched themselves to the full reform campaign and will probably have to go down with the ship if comprehensive reform sinks in the storm-tossed DC waters. One of the major problems for reform backers when dealing with reluctant or openly hostile House members is that those members tend to vote more on what they see as being advantageous in their home constituencies than for the nation as a whole. Many of them face a situation in which the negatives simply overwhelm the positives, in other words the backlash at home would far outweigh the national praise if they came out for reform on the scale of the Senate bill. And that backlash would come home to roost in the 2014 mid-term elections.


Still, if reform backers can even convince about a couple of dozen House Republicans to give reform an airing after the recess, all this high summer effort will have been worth it. September will tell the tale.