My dad still feels the guilt of having to chose between keeping the life he was building for himself in America, or being deported for attending his father's funeral.
The anxiety of my dad's generation hasn't been resolved for the new generation of Irish, who now more than ever in the past decade are coming to America.
A petition is being circulating nation-wide to Get The Irish Home For Christmas.
Like all groups that come to America, they are in legal freefall, and must fear the holidays; must fear missing births and not being there for sick relatives. Lawmakers promise reform, but do little, while the television rhetoric pits the hardest working among us against the citizen who wants fair wages for all labor so to maintain the unique phenomenon of a strong middle class to check the potentially oligarchical powers of the rich.
The Irish role in building unions in America, and political machines to advocate for the newcomer and the ambitious laborer, is what created the middle class, and the prosperity that makes America an option for those fleeing desperate situations at home.
There are by some estimates, 50,000 undocumented Irish living in the United States, a modest number relatively speaking. Life for the undocumented puts a person seeking employment in a legal standing that in effect criminalizes the individual who wishes only to work for a fair wage and to live freely.
Irish people are fleeing a jobless environment in Ireland, benefiting the Irish government which does not have to attend to their needs if they're off-soil, and it does not. The sense of abandonment and estrangement from governments, comes out in Dominic Cromie's Here among the Shadows, which can be heard on his website.
Micheál Martin T.D. and Foreign Affairs Minister for the Republic was in Washington DC in October of last year lobbying for something like a two-year renewable work visa, which is similar to one that is in operation between Ireland and Australia. There's no progress, and little support, except by groups like the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, and community centers in Irish communities that provide assistance, such as the Emerald Isle Immigration Center.
American politicians offer little except talk. The worst among them--from an Irish American perspective--is Congressman, Patrick Murphy who is sponsoring a no-amnesty bill, rejecting all nuanced approaches to a complex issue. Murphy's headline-grabbing answer only leads to raids on poor people, while those exploiting their labor with illegal wages remain well outside the Congressman's bull's eye.
Reformers cite the opportunity that immigration reform such as that sponsored by the late Irish American leader Senator Edward Kennedy, and Republican John McCain. GDP growth is projected to dramatically increase with proper reform, while mass deportation would only drain national wealth. It's one of many economics arguments that require more detail and wider discussion.
A great place for that discussion is on Tyrone man Steven MacSweeney's group page on Facebook, and in the comments section below.
The photo above is a shot taken on Wexford Street by Garibaldi McFlurry.
Happy Earth Day! Ireland sure looks gorgeous from outer space