Bill to allow Irish gain US visas
A US Senator from New York introduced a new Bill to the United States Senate that would annually allow up to 10,000 Irish citizens to obtain American work visas.
Senator Charles Schumer previously wrote legislation for the diversity visa program, while a member of the House of Representatives, and created the 'Schumer visa', distributed to 50,000 people in countries with low rates of immigration to America.
This Bill is the first in 15 years, when the Morrison and Donnelly visa lottery programs were cut, that focuses exclusively on Irish-American immigration.
"Fundamentally, the whole game has changed in the last few weeks," said Niall O'Dowd, publisher of the Irish Voice newspaper in New York, and co-founder of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform.
"Hispanic, Indian, Filipino, and Chinese lobby groups got their Bill through the House of Representatives last week. Until then, it was about comprehensive, non-country specific immigration reform."
Members of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, an Irish-American grassroots organization, worked with Mr Schumer to push for the introduction of this legislation.
Since it's founding in 2005, the organization has rallied to counter the problem of undocumented Irish immigrants in the US, and create a quota-based legal channel for Irish to come live in America.
"This bill is the beginning of a process," said Mr O'Dowd, "we are reasonably confidant it will succeed. With the recession, increased numbers of Irish are coming to America, and we would prefer them to come legally."
James O'Malley, an immigration lawyer from Ireland and the head of the Manhattan-based O'Malley and Associates firm, said that the Irish have been accustomed to coming to the US since the launch of the Donnelly-Morrison Green Card Lottery program in the late 1980s.
This piece of legislation fixed a 40 per cent visa quota for Ireland between 1989 and 1996.
"This Bill is like the Australian E-3 visa, it's not permanent and it doesn't include a waiver or amnesty," said Mr O'Malley, "but I think it's great.
Senator Schumer is a friend to the Irish and a great strategist; I don't think he'd be doing this without encouragement."
A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said that the government is working with Irish-American community activists, and the American Embassy and Consulates to advance the prospects of this Bill.
"The Ministry welcomed the proposals being tabled this week by Senator Schumer, with support from Senators Patrick Leahy," said Philip Grant, a press officer for the Department.
While Irish politicians and activists consider this Bill a positive development in the struggle against illegal emigration, in US politics, immigration is vaulting into the spotlight as one of the most contentious issues of the 2012 presidential race.
Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington DC, said that the idea of "affirmative action" for visas was unjustifiable.
"If this Bill were to pass, it would be because of nostalgia and sentimentality, not national interest," said Mr Krikorian. "Maybe lawmakers want to get down something pro-immigration without angering voters."