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Does Obama's re-election bring new hope for immigration reform? Photo by: Saul Loeb, 2012 AFP

Irish undocumented in New York hopeful that Barack Obama will deliver on immigration reform

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Does Obama's re-election bring new hope for immigration reform? Photo by: Saul Loeb, 2012 AFP

President Barack Obama stated that he hopes to work on immigration reform soon after his inauguration, a move that will delight the many undocumented Irish living in the U.S.

In his first news conference since his re-election, Obama addressed the controversial issue.  “I am very confident we can get immigration reform done,” he said, adding that he hopes to secure a “pathway to legal status” for the undocumented who are “simply to work.”

Claire S., who overstayed her 90 day visa waiver six weeks ago, hopes that Obama can deliver on this promise as the process of being undocumented has left her “stressed out of her head.”

“I was on my second waiver when I decided to overstay,” she said. 

“It was not an easy decision but I felt there was nothing at home for me, apart from my family. There are no good jobs. In America I had a job waiting for me in a bar that meant money, good money. My boyfriend was here too. 

“But now that I am illegal I wake up every day with a sick feeling in my stomach. I can’t go home for my sister’s wedding next year. My dad is not well and I just hope nothing happens while I am here.”  

Steve M., an undocumented bartender who has been here for the past seven years, also laments his position as an undocumented immigrant, but says that it is better than being in Ireland.

“Every time I have complained about being illegal over here, people are like, ‘Sure why don’t you go home, then?’ It’s not as simple as that,” he says.

“There are better opportunities to get ahead here if you’re willing to work hard. There is big money to be made. It’s a great way of life out here. It’s hard to go back and work and live in Ireland after here.”

Gerry Nevin, a U.S. citizen for the past four years through marriage after arriving illegally in 1999, says he would never go down the undocumented route again. 

“Looking back, it’s a tough life and I didn’t even realize until I turned legal. I can now go home for holidays and birthdays, twice, three times a year if I want,” he says.

“If I hadn’t got married to an American woman I think I would have went home.  I can’t imagine trying to raise a family here, trying to start businesses but I have friends who are doing it. It just looks like one big legal headache that I thankfully don’t have to worry about, not anymore.”

Derek T, an undocumented electrician, is not getting his hopes up, but wishes that Obama will deliver.

“People have short memories,” he said.  “Obama pretty much promised the exact same thing four years ago just after he got elected and nothing happened. Even though I like Obama I think it’s just a publicity stunt because so many of his followers are ethnic minorities.”

Derek goes on to offer a tentative solution to the quandary of immigration.

“I think people should be able to buy their way into a legal status,” he says. “A few grand, 20 grand, whatever it takes, I’m sure people will pay. Sure, people pay that much nowadays to get married to get their green card so why not? It proves they are earning money and not just sponging. 

“I think they should then be monitored for a few years to make sure they are still earning, still contributing and they should be made citizens after that. I hope the government will make a move sooner rather than later,” he concluded.

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