The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) is preparing its new campaign to lobby on behalf of the Irish undocumented in the U.S. in the weeks and months ahead. Several meetings with members of Congress who hold senior positions in the committees overseeing immigration reform have been scheduled in Washington next month to approach the issue of the estimated 50,000 Irish undocumented living across the U.S., and to create legal access to Irish citizens wishing to come and live here long term. While in Washington last week for the inauguration of President Barack Obama, ILIR chairman Niall O'Dowd and vice chairman Ciaran Staunton held several meetings with members of the new administration, as well as discussing immigration issues with members of the Friends of Ireland in Congress. O'Dowd and Staunton said that the general consensus at both the Senate and House level is to move forward on immigration reform over the next 12 months. In addition, ILIR lobbyist Bruce Morrison and Irish American Democrats President Stella O'Leary have met with the Obama administration on the issue. Obama has underlined his commitment to the matter of immigration by naming a number of seasoned immigration activists and supporters to senior posts in his administration, including Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona, who is one of the few Arizona politicians to have spoken out in support of comprehensive immigration reform. Napolitano will serve as Obama's new secretary of Homeland Security. Her role will include overseeing the various immigration agencies that are part of the Department of Homeland Security. Meanwhile, Cecilia Munoz, a veteran immigration campaigner and former colleague in the Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, has been named to a top post in the White House. Munoz, who was most recently vice-president at NCLR (National Council of La Raza), and was a long-time member of the National Immigration Forum's Board of Directors, has been named director of intergovernmental affairs for the White House. Meanwhile, the new Irish Intern Work and Travel Program is now operational. Irish college students or recent graduates can submit their applications now for visas that will allow them to live and work in the U.S. for a year. Information on this program can be found at www.dfa.ie or at www.iicenter.org/services/J1-iwt.htm.
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