James Mahon, a Galway native who snagged his dream job as a TV news reporter in the U.S., is seeking a visa so he can continue building his career in American television. He and his supporters have launched a petition on Change.org asking U.S. Immigration to grant him a visa.
He has been taken off the air in Chattanooga and is the focus of much viewer agitation over his absence. The Irishman was a very popular reporter at his station WDEF.
Addressing the issue Mahon wrote on Twitter “Okay, I might as well say this now as i am getting a lot of questions from our viewers as well as you folks on here and there will be confused and angry people in Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama tomorrow when a news report airs on what happened to me, Yes i have come off air and will only be returning pending a visa that has yet to be issued or may not be issued. Thank you for your concern."
Mahon, a 22-year-old fluent Irish speaker, has been working as a local news reporter for Tennessee’s WDEF station since December 2012. After graduating from NUI Galway, he studied broadcast journalism at Sheffield University in the UK. Determined to break in to the American news market, he went through more than 60 interviews, often making it to the shortlist of candidates. But, as he told IrishCentral, he was never quite able to close the deal.
Eventually, perseverance paid off, and he landed a job with CBS’s Tennessee affiliate less than a year ago. While his accent sometimes confuses viewers, Mahon says that he enjoys his job – and wants to keep doing it.
In an interview he stated "At the end of August... August 21st, I applied for another visa called an 01, which means you have to prove a level of extraordinary ability."
"To prove that you're extraordinary at something is hard. I'm in a strange situation.. I'm a pending application and I guess I just have to wait."
"I'm in a situation where I can't work, I can't drive, I can't pay taxes. All I can do is sit and wait and that's what I've been doing. Sitting and waiting is what I've been doing. Until someone, somewhere reads my paperwork and tells me yes or no."
"I can see why so many people come here illegally. I can see why people stay here illegally. There are no options. I am trying to do things the legal way and I'm left like this."
"You just don't know. I don't know if tomorrow, Friday, or the next day, or next Wednesday, or two weeks from now if I'll hear from my attorney and they'll say no you need to get out of the country," adds Mahon.
Mahon’s friend Daniel Gray has created a Change.org petition, US Immigration: Provide a Visa To Irish Reporter James Mahon. To read the petition and add your signature, please click here.
Here's Mahon doing a feature at WDEF "Chattanooga Through Irish Eyes: Line Dancing":