President Obama announced his executive action on immigration on November 20 in a move that is expected to spare up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation and provide many with work permits.
During a 15-minute address to the nation, the President, stated in his opening lines "Our immigration system is broken-and everybody knows it.”
The President went on to give his reasons for taking executive action citing the delay in the bi-partisan immigration bill which was passed in the senate last year (2013) but has yet to go to vote at the House of Representatives.
He said “For a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote.”
Highlighting what the reform will involve, the President, told the nation that by acting in his legal authority, his actions hopes to crack down on illegal immigration at the border, prioritize deporting felons not families, and require certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay their fair share of taxes as they register to temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation.
The President’s actions will also streamline legal immigration in a bid to boost the American economy and promote naturalization for those who qualify.
In closing, Obama said “My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants.”
Following the announcement the Boston Irish community reacted to the news.
Boston Mayor, Marty Walsh, said "As a son of immigrant parents, I am familiar with the vulnerabilities experienced by immigrant families. This means a lot to me, personally. I know that immigrant families simply want to be treated like members of our community, because that’s who they are."
In a statement, Consul General to Boston, Breandán O Caollaí, said “The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan T.D. and the Minister for the Diaspora, Jimmy Deenihan T.D. welcomed last night’s (Nov. 20) announcement by President Obama which represents a strong start on immigration reform. It should benefit a significant number of our citizens. "
Further adding "The Consulate General is working very closely with the Irish Pastoral Centre and the Irish International Immigrant Center, both of which receive financial support from the Irish Government, to ensure Irish citizens will have access to accurate and timely advice about how this reform applies to them. The center's, with Consulate General support, will also be organizing information meetings for Irish citizens in the area. I would encourage anyone who wants to clarify their situation to contact either the IIIC or IPC and/or attend one of these information sessions."
The Irish immigrant and advocacy organizations in Boston, the Irish International Immigrant Center (IIIC) and the Irish Pastoral Centre (IPC) warmly welcomed the news by President Obama.
In a press statement, Ronnie Millar, Executive Director of the IIIC said "For the past 25 years, the Irish International Immigrant Center has helped immigrant families and individuals from Ireland and from around the world. We are pleased with the President’s plan, and will provide quality legal services, accurate information and caring support.”
However, Millar stressed that the IIIC will continue to advocate for full Comprehensive Immigration Reform for those who were not included in the President's executive action "There are many people who will not benefit from the announcement, and we stand alongside them at this time."
Kieran O’Sullivan, an Immigration, Detention and US Citizenship counselor with the Irish Pastoral Centre, was pleased with the announcement saying "We appreciate the great work Irish Ambassador Anne Anderson and her staff has been doing on the issue of the undocumented in the US in recent years.”
Both organizations were keen to stress that there is still much ambiguity surrounding these new reforms and it was imperative that all Irish immigrants consult an immigration lawyer before taking further action.
Many immigrants have expressed their confusion on what how executive action impacts them and if they are eligible for the reforms, O'Sullivan explained:
"Deferred action and employment authorization is granted to those [Irish] parents if they; Have continuous residence in the United States since January 1, 2010; Are the parents of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident born on or before November 20, 2014; and are not an enforcement priority for removal from the United States, pursuant to the November 20, 2014, Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants Memorandum."
O’Sullivan, stressed that it was important that those eligible were aware that the executive action "does NOT grant them permission to travel or leave the U.S."
“Some media reports have been unclear on this, and we’re afraid some people might think its ok to go home for Christmas,” the immigration counselor said.
O’Sullivan further added “Based upon previous deferred actions, permission to travel on humanitarian parole was granted only after an application was filed for same."
"I called an attorney this morning [Friday, Nov.21] on this matter: Chris Lavery, Esq, warns ‘Leaving the US carries great risk if a person does not consult an experienced immigration attorney.’ "
Both organizations advise all those who have questions regarding how the President’s executive actions may impact them to contact their offices or to attend one of their information sessions that will take place in Boston over the next two weeks.
The first information session will take place this Wednesday, November 26 at the Irish International Immigrant Center’s offices in Downtown Boston.
The President's plan, if not stopped by Congress, will be implemented in 2015.
Immigration Executive Action Information Sessions in Boston
The Irish International Immigrant Center in downtown Boston: 100 Franklin St. Lower Level, Boston, (Enter at 201 Devonshire Street) will hold two sessions on Wednesday, November 26th at 12:30 pm and Tuesday, December 2nd at 10:00 am. For more information, call 617-542-7654
The Irish Pastoral Centre will hold an informational evening on deferred action at The Banshee, Dorchester on Tuesday, December 2nd at 5.30pm. For more information, call 617-265-5300