Ahern for New York

FORMER Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern will be in New York in June and will speak to students at All Hallows High School in the Bronx.

Board member at the school Walter O'Hara has arranged the visit by Ahern, who has close connections to the school's spiritual home in Dublin, All Hallows College in his district of Drumcondra.

O'Hara, who works with Allen and Company, the leading investment bank, has been a member of the taoiseach's Economic Advisory Board and knows Ahern through those activities.

All Hallows these days is far from an Irish school any more. It is located a few blocks from Yankee Stadium and has mostly minority students on its rolls.

However, it has a stellar reputation of sending its kids on to college, despite the genuine difficulties and hardships many students face.

It will be a big day for the school when Ahern visits, recognition that the link with Ireland is still intact and an acknowledgement of that. It is not known what other events the former taoiseach may take in when he's here.

Using Passports to Travel

MANY phone calls have been received here at the Irish Voice about the latest federal instructions that all foreigners must have their passports when they travel within the U.S.

It is important to note that this is not related to immigration, merely to new laws designed to ensure that a government-issued ID is the only legal way for people to travel.

Is there a chance that an employee at the airport will look through your passport and see that your visa is expired? Yes, but it is a very small one.

As anyone can testify, if they were to adopt that tactic, airport lines, already insufferable, would be twice as long. There is a risk in traveling if you are undocumented no matter how you decide to go -i.e. you could be pulled over for a traffic offense, etc. Scare stories that people are certain to be pulled in due to the new passport regulation are way off the mark.

Obama Advisor Slams Irish

ZBIGNIEW Brzezinski, former national security advisor to Jimmy Carter and now advising the Obama campaign, has stated that "country specific lobbies such as the Cuban Americans, the Armenians and the Irish" have "exerted undue influence in Washington."

Zbig, as he was known, made his comments in the context of also criticizing the Israeli lobby that he accused of obstructing peace efforts in the Middle East.

Zbig's comments will resonate with Irish Americans who have found the Obama campaign far from welcoming to Irish activists.

An Obama advisor, Samantha Power, now gone from the campaign, stated on one occasion that the Obama foreign policy would not involve working with such lobbies.

If so then it may be a very foolhardy idea. The Irish lobby helped make the Irish peace process happen, a fact acknowledged by people as disparate as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and lately even the North's First Minister Ian Paisley.

Ethnic Americans have the same rights as everyone else to lobby and work for their causes, and if Obama's campaign doesn't believe so then they surely will have another think coming come Election Day.

Non-Violent Ethnic Cleansing

"A NON-violent form of ethnic cleansing" is what immigration activist Frank Sharry has called current U.S. actions on immigration.

Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, says in an article this week on Alternet that "there is nothing humane about a deliberate strategy of repression aimed at driving out 12 million undocumented immigrants and their millions of U.S. citizen children and loved ones out of the country."

Sharry has been an outstanding advocate for the rights of immigrants and is considered the major figure nowadays in the immigration reform movement. He was once supportive if the Bush administration, but now says their enforcement only policy is only making matters worse.

Sharry believes immigration reform groups must adopt new tactics in order to make a difference.

"It's on us as advocates and members of key constituencies -locally and nationally - to make and win the moral, practical and political arguments. If we do, over time I believe that most Americans will demand the kind of political leadership and pragmatic solutions In addition to making it clear that opponents of broad reform are extremists that have hijacked the debate," he wrote.

"We have to make sure we win the argument that our approach to reform - workers with rights, families that are enfranchised with all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, and visa limits as well as labor laws sensibly enforced - is better for workers, taxpayers and the rule of law.

"We have to run to, and not from, these issues. After all, we are right. Making sure immigrants are on track to become citizens with all the rights and responsibilities of full membership while cracking down on unscrupulous employers who encourage a race to the bottom for all workers is clearly the most practical way to replace the chaos, illegality and exploitation of a broken system," he says.