US Congress group speak out on undocumented Irish

Public push for overhaul of immigration laws ahead of Washington rally

A group of Irish-American Democratic members of Congress spoke out yesterday about the role played by Irish immigrants in the United States in a public push for a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Image

A group of Irish-American Democratic members of Congress spoke out yesterday about the role played by Irish immigrants in the United States in a public push for a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Image

Thu, Apr 11, 2013, 06:00

A group of Irish-American Democratic members of Congress spoke out yesterday about the role played by Irish immigrants in the United States in a public push for a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws.

The group, led by US congressman Joe Crowley from New York, said that reforming the laws to give a legal standing to 11 million undocumented immigrants was not just an Irish issue but an American issue.

Representative Crowley said there must be “a road to full citizenship” for the undocumented.

“We don’t want to be about creating a new class of a sub-American in some way,” he said when asked about illegal immigrants waiting more than a decade to become citizens under proposals being considered by lawmakers.

On the future flow of immigrants, the New York congressman said that the system for legal immigrants was broken, describing the backlogs as “unmerciful” and “immoral”.

“It doesn’t meet the needs of that population – it doesn’t meet the needs of America,” he said.

The members of Congress spoke ahead of tens of thousands of immigrants and their supporters descending for a rally at the US Capitol as lawmakers prepare the most sweeping immigration bill in more than 20 years.

The so-called Gang of Eight, a cross-party group of senators, is expected to publish their long-anticipated bill on immigration reform in the coming days to try to bridge a gap between Democrats and Republicans on a divisive issue.

Representative Richard Neal from Massachusetts spoke about the contribution that the Irish had made to business in America, noting that there were 100,000 Americans working at Irish companies in the US.

“You can’t even begin today to imagine America without the Irish,” he said.

Carolyn McCarthy, a New York representative, said that there were “more than 50,000 Irish-Americans” waiting to become US citizens. They paid taxes and didn’t cost the government anything in benefits, contrary to claims by some, she said.

“One thing that everybody seems to forget — we were all immigrants at one time,” she said.

Joe Kennedy III, grand-nephew of President John F Kennedy, said there was an opportunity to fix a broken system for all nationalities of illegal immigrants.

“It’s not an Irish cause, a Hispanic or cause of any one person or group – it is an American cause,” he said.

Former Democratic congressman Bruce Morrison, an immigration lawyer and advocate, said that the Irish-Americans in Congress had played a critical role in passing the last immigration bill passed by Congress in 1990. They were again supporting immigration reform this time around, he said.