The House and Senate comes back into session early in September, and it is fair to say that all eyes will be on the immigration issue as far as the Irish community is concerned.
There are 50,000 Irish undocumented it is estimated, and the comprehensive reform bill passed by the Senate also includes a provision for E-3 visas which would allow 10,000 Irish to work legally in the U.S. each year, and reopen a path to America that was shut down for the Irish in 1965.
Over the summer the much sought after backlash against the bill which passed the Senate failed to materialize.
Congressman Steven King of Iowa, the successor to virulently anti-immigrant Tom Tancredo, tried his best to rise up a dust storm that would overwhelm the issue.
Much to his chagrin, the meetings he held were very poorly attended and several were canceled.
The collective yawn and the absence of outrage is in direct contrast to what happened to the Kennedy/McCain bill on immigration reform a few years back when right wing members of Congress and conservative talk radio hosts whipped up enough opposition to doom that initiative.
This time around, Republican members of Congress headed home for summer break expecting the issue to be a major one at town hall meetings, but were surprised to learn that it barely registered compared to President Obama’s health care plan which has become the big bête noire on the right.
Indeed, many pro-immigrant activists made their voices known at many of those meetings, much to the surprise of many in the GOP.
The Catholic Church also stepped forward and designated September 8, a Sunday, as a day when in pulpits across the nation the issue of support for the immigration bill will be front and center.
There is enlightened self-interest there of course, with Hispanics making up a huge percentage of believers these days.
But there is also, hopefully, a resonance from Pope Francis, who has stressed pastoral issues over doctrinal fights which has led to a more active church role on issues such as immigration.
So the long feared summer of rejection with a mass movement against the Senate bill from the Republican right has failed to appear.
This would seem to indicate that the bill has a better chance now of making its way through the House than before the summer break.
There is no question that the absence of the much- feared long hot summer strengthens the leaders in the GOP who want this issue off their desks long before the congressional elections and the 2016 presidential race.
They need to act and act boldly and move the bill through the House soon after they come back in September.
Easier said than done, of course. This is a time that Irish organizations across the U.S. should seek to influence local legislators, especially Republican members of Congress who hold the fate of the bill in their hands.
This is the last chance for at least a decade, perhaps forever, to enact comprehensive immigration reform.
The Senate has shown it can be done in a genuine spirit of bipartisanship. It is now time for the House to follow.
The clear signal this summer is that much of the heat has gone out of the issue. There will never be a better time to pass historic legislation.
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