In Long Island, Adam pulls pints and chats to the regulars at the local Irish pub where he works. After 17 years Adam can finally relax in the knowledge that, with his new green card he is now living legally in the US.
He came to the US in 1996. He risked leaving a well paid job and a supportive family for an uncertain and illegal life across the Atlantic.
Adam says living illegally “was pretty easy." But just how easy is easy?
Not being able to open a bank account or get insurance, using fake social security numbers, fake ID’s, and lying to the authorities would not appeal to the masses - and certainly does not sound ‘easy.' Out of concern for being identified, Adam requested that his full name not be revealed.
But it looks like change may be on the way for the estimated 50,000 Irish people living illegally in the US.
It is expected that the congressional committee responsible for drafting the bill that could reform the American immigration system, will reveal the results of their deliberations next week.
Despite the disappointment of the previous failed attempt to overhaul the immigration system by the Obama administration in 2010, considerable progress on immigration reform is being made this time around.
Obama’s vision is to put the undocumented on the road to citizenship, while also creating opportunities for new immigrants to secure work legally, cracking down on employers hiring undocumented workers and improving border controls.
As it stands, the proposed reform, if passed could finally allow the 11 million illegal immigrants in the US to come forward and apply for legal residency, finally granting them the peace-of-mind that living illegally has not afforded them.
According to The Economic Times it is expected that the Senate may even be able to vote on an immigration Bill by summer.
Founder of The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, Niall O’Dowd is hopeful that the US government will follow through with the reform.
“This bill has the best chance in decades to make it into law,” Mr O’Dowd said.
But what would this reform really mean for the illegal Irish in the US and how hard is it really for them to get by without a green card?
Mr O’Dowd said, “It would have a profound impact on the 50,000 living here illegally as it would allow them to come out of the shadows and live a normal life.”
Unlike many illegal immigrants, Adam was not fazed by the prospect of being caught or deported.
Despite the complicated and precarious situations that Adam had to put himself in to get a green card, he thinks that the illegal Irish have a much easier ride than most other illegal immigrants.
Adam thinks that Hispanic immigrants have a much tougher time than the Irish. “They’re not bad people but they get the rough end of the stick, the Irish have it pretty easy, most of the cops are Irish,” he said.
Finding work was easy for Adam, with cousins in New York, he began bartending as soon as he arrived - paid cash in hand. Finding a drivers licence, bank account and a green card proved trickier.
When asked about how he got his green card, Adam replied: “I got a fake degree and an expensive lawyer, it was easy - I paid the lawyer and he did everything.”
However, cheating the system does not work for everyone, a friend of Adam’s was not so lucky, when he was caught using a fake degree he was deported within a few days.
These days, it is difficult to find work without a social security number, especially well paid work.
“The cost of living over here is crazy, I’m paying two grand on rent a month on my one bedroom apartment,” said Adam.
“One of the hardest things for me was not being allowed to drive anymore,” he added.
For years Adam was using a driving licence which he acquired using fake ID’s and a fake social security number.
He explained: “After 9/11 the government began cross referencing social security numbers and mine was found and my licence was suspended.”
But Obama’s proposal will certainly not represent a quick fix - illegal immigrants will have to face a long wait to earn their citizenship and what exactly is in store for the illegal Irish is still unclear.
According to Associate Director of Communications at The National Immigrant Justice Centre (NIJC) Tara Tidwell Cullen, it will be some time until the NIJC will know exactly what their Irish clients might be dealing with under a new law.
Ms Tidwell Cullen stressed: “There will be months of debate, amendments, and of course the House version to deal with before anything is passed, and the law could look much different by that point than it does when it is introduced.”
Adam has been lucky, but for the 50,000 undocumented Irish scattered across communities all over the United States of America, immigration reform cannot come soon enough.
Moving to Ireland
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