\"Congressman

Congressman Paul Ryan (center) is presented with a hurling stick by ILIR President Ciaran Staunton and IrishCentral founder NIall O'Dowd. Photo by: irishamerica.com

Passage of comprehensive immigration bill must be top priority in 2014

\"Congressman

Congressman Paul Ryan (center) is presented with a hurling stick by ILIR President Ciaran Staunton and IrishCentral founder NIall O'Dowd. Photo by: irishamerica.com

The great hopes of passing immigration reform for 50,000 Irish undocumented, as well as a comprehensive immigration bill, were dashed in 2013.

The culprit was the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives which decided on delaying tactics after a sweeping reform bill passed with a large majority in the Senate.

Hopes were high in the House at first, particularly given the outstanding vote in the Senate which was engineered by men like Senator Charles Schumer of New York and John McCain of Arizona.

These days, however, the House is where legislation goes to die, not just on immigration but on many other issues as well.

While many will despair at this point and believe that there is no hope for a bill, there was one interesting development at year’s end that calls for renewed optimism.

On the issue of budget negotiations, House Speaker John Boehner finally stood up to the Tea Party rump and forced through a bill that will prevent the government shutting down in January.

Such a move was as welcome as it was unexpected.  The work of Congressman Paul Ryan, a highly respected GOP leader who was Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2008, was critical in the breakthrough.

Ryan made it clear at an Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform breakfast in September that he favored comprehensive reform and would do his best to have a bill pass.

It is not too much to expect that early in the New Year, a renewed effort by all pro-immigration lobbyists can have a positive impact.

As USA Today reported in a story on Monday with the headline “Budget Deal May Clear Decks for Immigration in January,” a deal could well be on the cards.

If Boehner is finally admitting that the Tea Party is damaging more than helping his party’s cause, then it is far more likely that he will bring immigration reform up for a vote.

Proponents of reform have made it clear that they do not see the Senate bill being passed in the House.  But they need a vehicle that can become the basis for a House-Senate conference on reform. 

It has been a long, slow and bumpy road for those seeing to bring about immigration reform. That road in 2013 ended up as a dead end.

But this is no time to despair.  The shifting calculus on the Republican side must be taken for what it is — a possible opportunity to finally achieve immigration reform.

For the Irish who are undocumented this Christmas, there is still some hope that this issue can be dealt with for once and for all.

One would forgive the Irish for being skeptical though, given the past history.

The Irish motto must be, to paraphrase Samuel Beckett, “try, fail, fail better, and try again.”

It is an uphill climb for sure that weighs heavily on our community, whether in New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia or San Francisco, or indeed any other place where Irish undocumented live.

But the parting shot to the Tea Party by Boehner may be the welcoming volley from the GOP House leadership to the pro-immigration reform advocates.

It is not time to despair yet, nor time to shirk the challenge. Our forefathers faced much worse when they came to these shores and overcame great obstacles.

We owe it to them, and the generations yet to come, that the No Irish Need Apply sign comes down from America’s border, and that we are given the same opportunity as other ethnicities to emigrate legally, and legalize our citizens already here.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

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