The new bill introduced by Senator Charles Schumer in the Senate on Tuesday signals a new phase in the battle for immigration reform for the Irish.
In soccer parlance the ball just got kicked off, and it is up to the Irish government and Irish lobby to deliver on what Schumer and Senators Pat Leahy and Dick Durbin have put forward.
This latest initiative would allow 10,000 E3 visas to go to Ireland every year. It would also allow those living here to get waivers if they have overstayed and apply for them.
The E3 is not a green card. It requires a job offer, and then a two-year working visa renewable indefinitely is given.
It functions as a non-immigrant visa so does not affect the green card limits. The program was originally created for Australian immigrants as a thank you after the Gulf War when they sent troops.
The Schumer bill was offered as an amendment to a bill granting Chinese, Indian, and, Mexican and Filipino emigrants extra green cards.
That bill was ushered through the House of Representatives without any fanfare and would have become law in the Senate but for the fact that Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa took exception to it.
The fact that the Irish were not part of the bill immediately became a major issue for our community.
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We had played the good soldier in seeking comprehensive reform with all the other nationalities, but found ourselves on the outside looking in when the new bill was rushed through.
The leading Hispanic negotiator, Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who had built up a close relationship with the Irish lobby, obviously forgot to let us know that he was moving a significant piece of legislation. Such are the ways of Washington.
The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform acted immediately and Schumer agreed to make the Irish case in the new bill on Tuesday.
It is clear that from now on the Irish lobby can seek a solution for our particular problem independently while working with other lobbies on a best approach when necessary.
The Schumer bill is the beginning of the process that will prove arduous and tough, but after a long period where the immigration issue was going nowhere for the Irish, now we at last have a vehicle.
Obviously the need for Republican support is critical in this case, but it seems there is a very strong argument that the Irish government and the Irish lobby can make in support of this bill.
Its impact on Ireland, where unemployment recently went to 14.4% could be significant. Its impact on undocumented here if they were allowed a way to apply would be very profound.
So there is much to play for after a period of no significant activity. The most important factor may well be that comprehensive immigration reform is finally dead and buried, and that piecemeal legislation is now what can be got through Congress.
Schumer, one of the most powerful senators on Capitol Hill, has taken up our cause and presented the first bill that would help the Irish since the Morrison and Donnelly visas of a quarter century ago.