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In its nine years in existence ILIR has ferried thousands to Washington in support of reform. Photo by: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Irish still hopeful for US immigration reform

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In its nine years in existence ILIR has ferried thousands to Washington in support of reform. Photo by: Getty Images/iStockphoto

You have to have the patience of Job to continue to have faith in the possibility of immigration reform.

On Tuesday the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) held its annual fundraiser in New York and it was a highly successful event showing that many still believe that the powers that be on Capitol Hill will reach agreement. 

In its nine years in existence ILIR has ferried thousands to Washington in support of reform.  Hillary Clinton, the late Senator Edward Kennedy and Senator John McCain among others have addressed ILIR rallies, and the organization has fought tooth and nail for every opportunity to raise the issue but still has little to show.

ILIR is not alone of course. Every organization dedicated to immigration reform from whatever background has encountered the same blank reality when it comes to counting what has been accomplished.

But let us be clear – that is no reason to give up.

Five years ago the prospect of gay marriage, for instance, seemed very remote. Eventually, however, Americans began to see it as a fairness issue and it is now effectively the law of the land.

What has changed on immigration reform the critics ask? Firstly, there is a far more favorable climate now for reform. 

Opinion polls show the American people more in favor than in previous years. They are beginning to see it as a fairness issue.

Many personally know undocumented people and realize how hard they work for a living to support their families. Americans by and large know that the undocumented are a far cry from the pantomime villains portrayed by the anti-immigration crowd.

Also some of the biggest players in America have come on board – the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Silicon Valley giants such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft, and enlightened Republicans such as Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Paul Ryan.

The climate is becoming more favorable.  Consider the recent rash of Republican Party primaries where it was threatened that incumbents who favored immigration reform would be defeated by those against it. Did not happen.

Having said all that, time is running out for the current bill before the House of Representatives.  Having passed the Senate, the House has yet to take up their version of a bill.

Whether that is likely depends entirely on House Speaker John Boehner, who continues to send conflicting messages on how he plans to proceed.

There is a brief window before Congress goes home for the summer and the elections start in earnest in the fall.  Whether Boehner takes advantage of that opportunity remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the grinding business of pushing forward on every available front must continue.

ILIR has established important links with the GOP on this issue, unlike most immigration reform groups. ILIR has also forged close links with New York Senator Charles Schumer, by far the most accomplished politician dealing with this issue.

We can only hope that action will follow in the next 90 days or so on this issue.

Whatever the outcome now, it is not a matter of if but when immigration reform happens.

No doubt ILIR will still be in the vanguard when it does.

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