Irish community leaders are being asked to give their support to the push for a comprehensive new immigration bill. The White House recently sent out invitations to Irish American community leaders nationwide to attend a special briefing on comprehensive immigration reform this week.

Obama administration officials will host the briefing on Friday January 15 in Washington where the Irish American attendees will hear from the National Security Council on US-Irish Relations. Also scheduled is a briefing from the Domestic Policy Council on immigration reform.

Stella O’Leary, president of Irish American Democrats, told the Voice: “The White House has had a very good response to the invitations they sent out from the representative Irish groups from across the United States. I’m sure they’ll get a great deal of input on the concerns of Irish America on all the issues including immigration, Northern Ireland, the economy, and I think things are shaping up very well.

The administrations objective is to secure Irish political strength to help the forthcoming immigration reform bill through Congress when President Obama is ready to submit it, which sources say will be shortly.

“The Irish have a lot of political clout on the east and west coasts and I think they’ll be enormously helpful to the president in steering the bill and getting the kind of support it needs from both parties. The activists on the Irish side like Kieran Staunton, the vice-chairman of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, are acting very diligently with both Republicans and Democrats. They’re working very hard to have the legislation passed.”

O’Leary says she believes the forthcoming immigration reform bill will be very comprehensive, addressing all the concerns of undocumented Irish people living here.

“My understanding is that it will allow a path to citizenship and it won’t be unnecessarily punitive for the fact that they’ve been here a long time. They’re already working on compiling the bill and it’s going to be a very acceptable one because the Irish leaders who are helping to put it together are very familiar with the problems. I think it will be a much better bill than anything that has been submitted previously. It’ll be very good for the Irish. If they’re here working the bill will be very good for them.”

O’Leary added that if the new immigration bill follows the path of the health bill it will have a much less difficult time finding supporters because it will be less partisan. “My guess is if President Obama brings in the bill in the spring it will be passed before the November elections. With the help of the Irish, that is!”