Lobbyist angered by Irish government’s inaction over US immigration reform

Irish and Irish American's in the US gather at an Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform meeting

Ciaran Staunton, the president of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR), has said the inaction of the Irish government’s Department of Foreign Affairs, with relation to US immigration reform, has left his group feeling “isolated”.

Speaking to Cork’s Irish Examiner, Staunton said the Irish Government is old-fashioned in its approach. He also told them the government is more concerned with diplomacy than with making a real change for the Irish undocumented in the United States.

He said, “When it comes to the politics of Washington most people are using the iPhone. But the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Irish Embassy are still using the rotary dial-up.

“The policies have never changed. What happens when you have the permanent government situation, the script is the same.

“We can only advise them. We’re Irish-American and they’re a foreign government but ultimately they can open doors.”

Despite the lack of support from across the pond Staunton continued to push the message from Irish-America (that they want immigration reform for the undocumented Irish) throughout the United States.

Staunton also spoke about Senator Edward Kennedy’s Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 which made it more difficult for the Irish to obtain a working visa in the United States. As Kennedy himself pointed out the Act was discriminatory.

The ILIR head said the Irish government has never addressed the fact that the Irish are being discriminated by their current lack of visa options.

He said, “Official Ireland has been very reluctant — I don’t think they’ve ever addressed the 1965 Act. The department [Foreign Affairs] have been the weak link. There’s a mentality of ‘let’s not talk about it, let’s not ask’. One of the things in Washington is that you always have to be looking, you always have to be pushing.”

The Irish Government has defended its role. They have funded the immigration reform lobby $430,366 (€324,637) since 2006.

During Eamon Gilmore, Ireland’s Deputy leader’s, visit to Washington DC he said the Irish Government has been addressing this issue since 2006.

For more on the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform visit their Facebook page.