Judge John Collins, a retired Bronx-based Supreme Court judge in New York State and leader in the fight to change the 1965 Immigration law which essentially barred the Irish from the U.S., has called on the new generation of Ancient Order of Hibernian leaders to get involved.
Speaking at a St. Patrick’s AOH Division 5 event in new York where he was a guest of honor, Collins called on the AOH leadership to become deeply involved in the latest moves for comprehensive reform.
He stated, “Shortly, indeed very shortly the Congress and the President will take up the issue of immigration and undocumented individuals.
“That issue now is far different that it was forty years ago when I spoke before Congressional Committees and it is important that the AOH be concerned with it. The national AOH leaders need to be in contact with the legislators and determine what is possible and what is not and what the Irish should be looking for.
“You as individual members can keep the pressure on those national AOH leaders. Only 311 Irishmen and women were able to receive documented immigrant visas in 2011.
“We are no better than any other nationality but we do have some bragging rights and we deserve a fair shake.
“So what must the AOH say to Congress and Why? 40 years ago, the former National Chaplain of the AOH, a Carmelite priest from St. Simon Stock Parish, Fr. Donal O'Callaghan spoke to Congress about the Irish contribution to labor, politics, and the Church, but the first part of his remarks set the tone. He said in part-
“We ask you to look at the record. We are not Johnny come latelies. We have been here from the beginning. We were with Washington at Lexington and Concord and suffered through Valley Forge. When Benjamin Franklin addressed the Irish Parliament, he said that the Irish people were with us to a man. General Washington Parke Curtis said, -Up to the coming of the French, Ireland had furnished in the ratio of 100 to one of every nation whatever.
“In the war of 1812, the only great victory was won by a son of Irish immigrants, Andrew Jackson.
“Two thousand native born Irish fought under General Winfield Scott in the war against Mexico. One half of General Taylor's Army were Irishmen.
“In the War between the states whole Divisions of the Ancient Order of Hibernians went off to fight for the Union. 300,000 Irish born men wore the uniform of Blue and 150,000 died for the Union cause.
“In the First World War, when General Pershing crossed the Rhine, he came upon a regimental flag that couldn't stand straight because it had so many campaign ribbons on it. He asked an aide for the name of the regiment. Told it was the 69th of New York, he said, I should have known.
“WWII gave us the names of Colin Kelly, Admiral Callaghan and Father Joseph O'Callaghan, the first minister of religion ever to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.
“Under our present laws, many of these individuals and their ancestors would never have been admitted here. How can we sum up the record. We can do it no better, than by quoting John Boyle O'Reilly, Editor of the Boston Pilot.
"No treason do we bring from Erin
Nor bring we shame nor guilt
The sword we hold may be broken
But we haven't dropped the hilt
"The wreath we offer to Columbia is
fastened of thorns not bought
And the hearts we bring are saddened
by the thoughts of sorrowful days
But the hearts we bring for freedom
are washed in a people's faith out-living
a thousand years.
“That is what the AOH must now say to our Church, our labor unions and to the United States Congress,”he concluded.