The GAA fans at the North American County Board (NACB) Finals welcomed the volunteers of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) as at least 8,000 from 17 states across the United States descended on Cleveland for the weekend.

ILIR’s message was for the Irish and Irish American community to reach out to their Congressmen and remind them that immigration is an Irish issue and one they feel passionately about. Their message to those visiting their information booth was simple, the Irish were locked out by the Irish act in 1965 and the legislation set to go before the House of Congress in the coming few weeks will fix this broken system.

President of ILIR Ciaran Staunton was delighted to have the chance to reach out to Irish and Irish Americans from across the country.

He told IrishCentral, “It’s amazing to have 100 teams from 36 cities and 17 states all in one field in Cleveland. It was the perfect opportunity to reach out to the fantastic GAA community we have stretching out throughout the country.

“What we need to do in the next three weeks as this legislation goes to Congress is burn up the phone lines and speak to our politicians.”

Over the summer months, while many took a break, the ILIR was working hard on influencing the 148 representatives in Congress who will, come October, make a decision on the United States comprehensive immigration reform.

The legislation, drafted by “the Gang of Seven” headed up by New York Senator Chuck Schumer, will not only provide a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish in the United States currently but it will also insure a future flow of Irish so the Irish community in the United States will continue to flourish. The new law will provide 10,500 visas for the Irish annually, an annual quota which currently does not exist.

Deirdre Foy, an ILIR volunteer who manned the information booth for the weekend was encouraged by the response of the GAA community. She told IrishCentral, “They really wanted to know what they can do to help remedy the Irish situation and make sure this new bill goes through Congress this fall. This is the best chance we have of fixing this broken system.”

They were ready to learn about the situation, the legislation and what came next. Foy added, “What was great was that they were educating themselves and bringing their new knowledge back to their teams, signing up to our Facebook page and pledging to keep informed and help.”

However Foy was also surprised by some people’s reactions to the old 2006 “Legalize the Irish” t-shirts hanging from the booth. Some simply thought immigration reform was an issue for those “south of the border” but this is not the case. In fact only 25 percent of the estimated 11 million people living without papers in the United States are from South America.

Among those millions are the 50,000 Irish but more importantly there’s those Irish who in the future will look to the United States and be able to receive one of those 10,500 visas. Last week the Central Statistics Office of Ireland released figures showing that every six minutes a person leaves Ireland. Sadly in the year to April 2013 only six percent of these came to the United States, simply because it’s so difficult to get a visa.

Where will events such as the NACB Finals and other Irish cultural events be if this continues?

Members of the GAA eager to help the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform at the NACB Finals in Cleveland.ILIR