The battle for immigration reform is hitting a critical stage for the Irish American community early in 2012.
Last week President Obama announced new rules that will likely allow undocumented who marry citizens to stay in America while being processed -- a huge step.
That is a significant because shortly before Christmas, the Hispanic, Indian and Chinese lobby had a bill sail through the House that allowed more green cards for applicants from their countries.
Obama understands the importance in an election year of reaching out to Hispanics and other ethnic groups. We need to remind the president that the Irish have a dog in this fight too.
Given the economic plight in Ireland and the continuing stream of emigration here, we need to get a bill passed similar to what the Morrison and Donnelly visa bills did in the 1980s.
The bill we need passed in the Senate is S1983. Though the Irish were left out of the aforementioned House bill, but have responded with the S1983 bill of their own pushed by Senator Charles Schumer which would add an E3 visa dimension, allowing 10,000 Irish a year to come here and work while renewing the non-immigrant visa every two years.
The Schumer bill would possibly also allow undocumented to go back and seek the visas.
The bill quickly gathered support and now has 53 senators, all Democrats, on side.
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Senator Scott Brown introduced his own Irish bill which is more restrictive than the Schumer one, while Senator Mark Kirk pledged support.
Any bill in the Senate needs 60 votes to avid a filibuster, so the bill is seven votes short.
These can only come from the Republican side, and there are several obvious candidates.
The 15 names that the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform has come up with are as follows:
Kentucky: Senator Mitch McConnell: 202-224-2541
Maine: Senator Susan Collins: 202-224-2523
Maine: Senator Olympia Snowe: 202-224-5344
Alaska: Senator Murkowski: 202-224-666
Indiana: Senator Lugar: 202-224-4814
Arizona: Senator John McCain: 202-224-2235
South Carolina: Senator Lindsey Graham: 202-224- 5972
Ohio: Senator Rob Portman: 202-224-3353
Florida: Senator Marco Rubio: 202-224-3041
Massachusetts: Senator Scott Brown: 202-224-4543
Pennsylvania: Senator Pat Toomey: 202-224-4254
Illinois: Senator Mark Kirk: 202-224-2854
New Hampshire: Senator Kelly Ayotte: 202-224-3324
Iowa: Senator Chuck Grassley: 202-224-3744
Texas: Senator John Cornyn: 202-224-2934
Those are the key figures who may determine whether the S1983 bill or a version of it can pass the Senate and go to the House.
Any Irish American who feels strongly on this issue, especially those living in those states, should get on the phone, fax or e-mail.
The message is very simple -- pass S1983 and give the Irish back access to the U.S., which has been almost totally denied them since 1965.