Republican Kevin McCarthy.CNN

Kevin McCarthy is the big man in the political world right now. The Irish American Republican is likely to be elected to replace John Boehner as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. He is the great-grandson of a laborer from Cork and would become the third most powerful politician in America after the President and Vice President.

The California Congressman from Bakersfied currently holds the position of House Majority Leader and is next in line to Boehner. Barring a major upset, he will succeed him.

His major rival, Paul Ryan, another Irish American, has announced he is not running for the top job. So unless there is a maverick outsider, McCarthy looks the most likely candidate.

The San Francisco Chronicle says he’s a total family man.“Married to high school sweetheart Judy, who he asked out during sophomore biology class, he sleeps on a mattress in his congressional office because he doesn't want to pull his teenage kids out of the local schools. (He's going to share an apartment this year.) He calls and sends text messages to his kids several times a day and returns home every weekend.”

Boehner was seen as too moderate on immigration. Now, things are likely to remain muddled, as McCarthy also is seen as a relative moderate on immigration.

Given his family’s history, McCarthy is wise to resist the nativists within his own party.

In fact, given McCarthy’s strong Irish roots, he should be a stronger voice for defending America’s rich tradition of immigration. As far as religion goes, he is a Baptist.

McCarthy’s great-grandfather, Jeremiah McCarthy, was born in Cork in 1843, according to a book by Wallace M. Morgan entitled "History of Kern County California with Biographical Sketches."

“In 1862, [McCarthy] came to Boston and for two years he worked at farming,” Morgan writes. However, having “heard many encouraging reports from California he became interested and in 1867 came out west to see the land of gold and sunshine.”

McCarthy’s first marriage was to fellow Irish Catholic immigrant (from Sligo) Hattie Walsh, who died an early death. McCarthy then married Mayo native Mary Davron in June of 1898.

McCarthy’s labor history would be very familiar to any Irish immigrant of his era.

“In 1870, we find him working on the construction of the railroad at Lathrop. In 1871 he became a foreman on the construction for the Northern Pacific in Washington, where he remained until 1873, then returning to California to become foreman for the Southern Pacific at Borden,” the history book notes.

In short, it was Irish immigrants such as McCarthy who laid down and oversaw the railroads, thus setting America up to become to industrial giant it became in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Similarly, despite what 21st century nativists say, there is no reason to believe today’s immigrants from China, Mexico and Ukraine – as well as Ireland – will cease playing this critical role.

The great grandson of Jeremiah McCarthy should know that better than anyone.

Ultimately, McCarthy “resigned and retired” from railroading in 1907 to “engage in farming and stock-raising.” He acquired over 600 acres “at Bealville where he has made the necessary improvements for carrying on the raising of hay and cattle, his two brands being the quarter-circle under the figure 3 and a double J with bar underneath.”

A century later, Jermiah’s great-grandson is looking to leave his own mark on the political world. Let’s hope Kevin McCarthy keeps his family history in mind when he wields power on the issue of immigration.

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