Immigration reform Bill gets frosty reception from conservative Republicans

Overhaul of US system could mean more than 10,000 work visas available to Irish

Pro-immigration reform Bill demonstrators from the Florida Immigrant Youth Network. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Pro-immigration reform Bill demonstrators from the Florida Immigrant Youth Network. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Thu, Apr 18, 2013, 06:00

Passing the first major overhaul of US immigration laws in more than 25 years faces an uphill battle after conservative Republican opponents reacted negatively to a plan drafted by eight senators.

The draft Bill, published by the so-called Gang of Eight Democratic and Republican senators yesterday, stirred a perennial debate on Capitol Hill about whether a plan to allow 11 million “undocumented” residents become citizens amounted to an amnesty and disadvantaged US workers.

The Bill is widely expected to include a proposal to extend new E3 working visas, previously available to Australians, to Irish citizens with at least second-level education and two years’ work experience.


‘Positive development’
This could benefit up to 10,500 Irish citizens a year and allow them to work at least two years in the US. Tá

naiste Eamon Gilmore welcomed the proposal last night.

“This Bill is a very positive development which, if adopted, would help to end the great hardship and uncertainty faced by undocumented Irish in the US and their families here in Ireland,” he said.

US president Barack Obama welcomed the proposals, saying that they were “largely consistent” with his own objectives for immigration reform.


Outspoken critics
The group, led by Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York and Republican John McCain of Arizona, proposes to offer immigrants, including thousands of Irish living illegally

, a chance to become citizens on the condition that borders are sealed to stop at least 30,000 illegal crossings a year.

“There will be 11 million, maybe more, given immediate amnesty,” said Republican senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, one of the most outspoken critics of immigration reform and opponents of the proposals

Undocumented immigrants who arrived before December 31st could apply for citizenship after more than a decade if they pay at least $2,000 (€1,500) in fines and have not committed any felonies.