THE promise of immigration reform benefiting the undocumented Irish in America took a quiet but very important step forward in Washington, D.C. last week with a pivotal meeting between Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Ciaran Staunton, president of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) and South Carolina Ancient Order of Hibernians board member Jim Lawracy.
The meeting, also attended by ILIR consultant Bruce Morrison, discussed immigration reform proposals and their impact on the Irish American community.
Graham was very interested to learn of the Irish dimension to the immigration reform debate and urged Irish and Irish American leaders to continue to make their voices heard on the issue.
Graham, the senior senator from South Carolina and an influential member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has again called for the passage of comprehensive immigration reform and was a supporter of the McCain-Kennedy bill of 2006, as well as the ultimately unsuccessful comprehensive immigration reform Act of 2007.
Last week’s meeting was part of the ILIR effort to demonstrate the Irish dimension in the broader immigration issue to key policy makers across the U.S. on a state by state and bipartisan basis.
Graham was unambiguous in saying that he supported both legalization for the undocumented and a targeted program for future flows from Ireland modeled on the E-3 proposal as part of comprehensive legislation.
He underscored the positive contribution that advocacy by the Irish played for him in showing people in South Carolina that this issue is not just about one ethnic group. He noted that 40% of the undocumented arrived on visas or visa waivers and overstayed.