The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) met at the White House last week with representatives from the president’s Domestic Policy Council, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security at to discuss support for the Irish E-3 visa bill which has been proposed in the Senate by New York Senator Charles Schumer.
Along with representatives from ILIR, present at the White House meeting were Felicia Escobar from the Domestic Policy Council, David Doherty from the State Department and Kelly Ryan from the Department of Homeland Security.
ILIR chairman Bart Murphy and president Ciaran Staunton were also present.
Former Congressman Bruce Morrison, author of the Morrison visa program in the 1990s and currently a lobbyist for ILIR, said three specific topics were discussed at the meeting.
Firstly, a statement of support for the Irish E3 visa bill from the White House is being sought given that the Obama administration has supported a recent bill that would allow other ethnic groups, most notably Chinese, Hispanic and Indians, to receive extra green cards.
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The E3 would allow up to ten thousand Irish a year to come here legally and work for two years on a non immigrant visa. The two year visa could be extended indefinitely.
Also discussed at the meeting was the issue of visa waivers should Schumer’s E-3 visa bill, or a version of it, become law. Schumer’s proposal would allow for the undocumented in the U.S. to apply for the visas, but they would need a waiver in order to be exempt from a three or 10-year bar from the U.S. which all undocumented face when they leave the country and attempt to re-enter.
Lastly, meeting participants discussed the rules which apply to deportation and called on all people, with or without a waiver, to be subject to the same right of review.
Morrison used the example of an Irish businessman in New York who was recently incarcerated and was going to be deported. Because he had overstayed his visa he was not entitled to go before a judge to have his case reviewed.
The man, who is yet to be deported, owns a business, has employees and a wife and children who are settled in the U.S.
“The policy is not in for those on a visa waiver,” Morrison said. “They should be entitled to some standard of review.”
As the Irish E3 visa bill once again becomes a topic of discussion in Washington, ILIR is calling on the Irish community to ask Republican senators for support.
Morrison said support on the ground from the Irish community at this time is crucial as “communication about the legislation between senators” will reignite after the break.
Now, Morrison said, “The lobbying goal is to get Republican senators in particular, to sign up to the E3, preferably the Schumer bill, but the key point is we need Republican support for the E3 concept.”
The Irish American community has already started to do its part. According to Morrison, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina says he’s been “hearing a lot” from the community.
“So they are having impact, although he’s not made a decision yet.”
Around the country, groups of Irish are rallying in support of the Irish E-3 bill. In Cleveland last week 400 people attended a meeting at the West Side Irish American Club, Cleveland’s oldest Irish club, to hear Staunton explain that neither they nor their ancestors could have emigrated from Ireland to the U.S. under current U.S. immigration law.
A crucial meeting also took place between Senator Portman’s Ohio staff and leaders of the Irish American Ohio community.
Cleveland Irish leader, attorney John Myers said, “The Irish American community is mobilized in its support and understands the importance of Senator (Rob) Portman’s support in getting to the magic 60 in the Senate.”
Currently the bill has the support of 53 senators but still lacks support from Republicans.
As the discussion in Washington continues, those working on behalf of the Irish are asking that all members of the community contact their senators, especially their Republican senators, and ask that they support the Irish E3 visa bill.