Senator Charles Schumer of New York will hold the first hearing on the issue of immigration reform on Thursday, April 30 in Washington, D.C.

Schumer, who replaced Senator Edward Kennedy as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on immigration, border security and refugees, has been a steady advocate for comprehensive immigration reform during his tenure as senator and has showed his support to the undocumented Irish by attending a number of rallies hosted by the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform both in Washington, D.C. and in New York.

Schumer, who is ready and willing to face the critics on this contentious issue head on, is moving the debate along after President Barack Obama announced earlier in the month that he wants to sort out the issue of immigration this year.

The hearing, which is expected to touch on a path to citizenship for the undocumented among other things, is titled "Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2009, Can We Do It and How?"

Schumer’s New York chief of staff Martin Brennan told the Irish Voice on Tuesday that Thursday’s hearing will “start the conversation” on immigration reform in the U.S.

“This is the first of a series of hearings on a variety of issues,” said Brennan. “This fist hearing will kick off a re-examination of the immigration issue and come at it from a variety of different perspectives including economics, security, religion, labor and civil rights.

“It’s a way to start he conversation here again about how we might move forward to put together another comprehensive approach to address the immigration issue that so sorely needs to be addressed here.”

On Senator Arlen Specter’s announcement on Tuesday that he will run for re-election next year as a Democrat, Brennan said, “It’s too soon to tell if it will have a significant affect on the immigration debate” and prospects of immigration reform.

“Arlen has a history of being a moderate in his former party on immigration related issues, and he is a welcome endeavor to our caucus. It strengthens the overall hand of Democrats.”

Brennan said it was too soon to tell what a new immigration bill would contain, but he said Schumer will be looking at various issues in depth before putting anything on paper. 

“It’s much too early to speculate. This is the kick off for a renewed conversation but among other things, he (Schumer) is a strong supporter of strong employer ID requirements that will truncate the ability for future undocumented immigration to the U.S., and that is one of the key issues here,” said Brennan. 

Alan Greenspan, economist and former chairman of Federal Reserve, is expected to talk about the economic benefits of a mass legalization policy.

Also expected to testify in front of the Judiciary Committee on Thursday is Dr. Joel Hunter, senior pastor and member of the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships; Doris Meissner of the Migration Policy Institute and former commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service; and Eliseo Medina, executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union.

The hearing will take in the Dirksen Office Building in the nation’s capital on Thursday, April 30 at 2 p.m.