Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and deputy leader Eamon Gilmore has been urged by Irish immigration campaigners to take a cross-party delegation of politicians and senators to Capitol Hill to lobby members of Congress on behalf of the estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish in the United States.
Last week a cross-party group of Irish politicians cancelled a planned lobbying mission to Washington when the Department of Foreign Affairs announced Gilmore’s plans to lobby the same members of the House of Representatives.
However, Ciaran Staunton, the president of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) told the Sunday Times (subscription), “We have always asked that the Irish parties come over here as a political bloc, not as individual parties.”
Staunton said the Republicans, who have the majority in the House of Congress, will be making their minds up over the “Gang of Eight’s” new immigration reform legislation during the next two weeks.
Gilmore plans to meet with Kevin McCarthy, the Republican party whip in the House, Paul Ryan, chairman on the House budget committee, as well as Peter King and Richard Neal, prominent Irish American Republican congressmen. He will also meet with Bob Goodlatte, a conservative Republican, Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat minority leader, and Zoe Lofgren, the Democrat immigration reformer.
Staunton added, “If the Tanaiste [Deputy Prime Minister] comes, I hope he brings some of the TDs [members of parliament] and senators who have worked so hard over the years and have built up contacts on the Hill.”
Fianna Fail Senator Mark Daly, spokesman on the Irish overseas, also appealed to the Labour Party leader to take a cross-party group to Washington.
Daly said, “It should be an all-party delegation going over to ensure people with contacts in the House of Representatives get across how important the issue is.”
He continued, “We were planning to go this week but the word back to the committee from the Department of Foreign Affairs was that the Tanaiste should go on his own. This debate is entering a critical phase”.
A spokesperson for Gilmore told the Times that there were no plans for the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Oireachtas [Parliamentary] committees to be part of the same delegation to Washington. They said it was up to the foreign affairs committee to decide when they travel.
Last week the “Gang of Eight” immigration reform, led by New York Senator Chuck Schumer, passed through the Senate. The bill will give illegal Irish immigrants living in the United States, “a pathway to citizenship”. It will also provide 10,500 visas per year to Ireland, allowing for a future flow of Irish immigration.
The new immigration reform legislation faces a stiffer opposition in the House of Representatives, with a majority of the Congress being Republican.
Republican speaker for the House, John Boehner, said last week he will not put the bill into the lower chamber without support from the “majority of the majority”.
In response, Schumer said that Republican national leaders to press the House speaker to pass the bill due to the fact that the GOP needs the immigrant vote. In the 2012 election 70 percent of America’s Hispanic electorate voted for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney.