Green card: The Donnelly visas allowed 20,000 Irish people were able to embark upon a new life in the US.Google Images

Undocumented Irish immigrants have been given new reason to hope that immigration reform is on President Obama's agenda.

This follows a report in The New York Times that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency has quietly begun preparing for an expected upsurge in its workload.

Alejandro Mayorkas, the director of USCIS, says it is planning ahead for the possibility of comprehenive immigration reform.

Mayorkas says that President Obama has already told immigration officials that the White House proposal will include a legalization program and “We are under way to prepare for that.”

Recent estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center say there are about 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

The USCIS is concerned that it would not be able to handle the expected flood of applications if a legalization program was approved.

For example, it currently processes some 6 million applications in 12 months and immigration experts believe the agency would need to be prepared to deal with some 10 million in the space of a few weeks.

Meanwhile, two Massachusetts police have pulled out of a program which authorized them to enforce federal immigration laws.

The police departments in Framingham and Barnstable have said the program was too costly and did nothing to help fight crime.

"It doesn’t benefit the Police Department to engage in deportation and immigration enforcement,’’ Framingham’s chief, Steven Carl, said. “We’re done. I told them to come get the computers.’’