Since 1965 the Irish have had very restricted access to the United States. The proposed E3 visa is not special treatment it would be righting a wrong for all those Irish waiting to live the American dream.

The revelation that Ireland may get 5,000 or so U.S. non-immigrant working visas that are not being used by Australia and its E-3 visa program has resulted in the usual hysteria about a special deal for Ireland.

Retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan has been vilified and attacked for seeking to restore some semblance of fairness to the Irish who have been coming to America for 250 years but no more, except in a trickle.

Critics say it is a special deal for the Irish. Some special deal.   

When it comes to the number of green cards Ireland gets annually the numbers are so low as to be almost meaningless.  Here are the facts direct from Homeland Security.

In 2017, Mexico got 170,000 green cards.  China got 71,000.  Cuba got 65,000. India got 60,000. The Dominican Republic, 58,000.  The Philippines, 49,000. Vietnam, 38,000.

El Salvador, 25,000. Haiti, 21,000. South Korea, 20,000. Colombia,18,000. Pakistan, 17,000. Nigeria, 14,000.

Ireland got 1,200.

Yes, that’s right, a full total of 1,200 green cards went to Ireland, one of the founder nations of the United States.

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Since the 1965 Immigration Act, ironically rammed through the Senate by Edward Kennedy, European immigration has slowed to a trickle. Kennedy himself stated clearly that had not been his intention, but it has ended up like that.

The previous system overwhelmingly and unfairly favored western Europe, but the 1965 Act went in the complete opposite direction.

To say the system is screwed up is putting it mildly. The No Irish Need Apply signs are back up when it comes to immigration. There is absolutely no possible way at present other than getting a share of the E-3 pool that Ireland will be able to have some sort of reasonable, legal access to the U.S.

It is important to point out that the E-3 visa is reciprocal, that Americans in similar numbers can go and work in Ireland. It would be a government to government agreement with benefits for both sides.

It is past time for such a deal. We spilled our blood and sweated our tears for this country.  The Irish had 10,000 men in George Washington’s ranks, up to 200,000 fought for Lincoln and the union. We've had more Medal of Honor awardees than any other nation.

We gave the U.S. its Catholic school and hospital system, much of its political system, built the roads, the railways, the highways, and the infrastructure in almost every city. We fought in two World Wars, Vietnam, Korea and bravely served.

We have a history of giving back. Millions became nurses, cops, teachers – all caring professions – produced the finest presidents, Kennedy, Reagan… and we get 1,000 odd visas.

Sworn enemies like many Afghanis and Iranians get far more entry to the U.S.

We should never apologize for trying to level the playing field.

It is not racist to do like the Australians did to come up with an inventive way to secure access to America. We do not need to apologize for seeking a few thousand non-immigrant visas which must be renewed every two years when our people are totally blocked from America.

I am fed up of the apologies as if we are somehow racist for seeking a small percentage of the access to the U.S. that scores of other countries already enjoy.

No, we are not racist. Yes we are for the dreamers, we marched for comprehensive immigration reform, we support a humane and decent immigration policy that is not just about enforcement.

But we deserve our presence in America too. The E-3 visa would help right a catastrophic wrong.  We will know later this week if we will be getting them.

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Senator Edward Kennedy.