Philadelphia Congressman Brendan Boyle is calling for immigration reform that would facilitate greater Irish emigration to the United States.
Brendan Boyle says Irish immigration was in rapid decline and that the US Government needed to re-establish a legal pipeline for Irish emigrants to enter the United States.
"It saddens me that so many Irish choose Australia or Canada or elsewhere because it's just so difficult to get into the US. I think it's a loss for them, but it's also a loss for the United States," Boyle told IrishCentral.
Boyle said that he was "working hard" at figuring out a legal pathway for Irish emigrants and said that his plan to open up the E-3 visa program to Ireland would help thousands of Irish people enter the US legally every year.
The E-3 visa program currently allows up to 10,500 Australians in specialty occupations to enter the US on a two-year visa that can be renewed indefinitely.
However, Australians only use about half of the allotted visas each year, and Boyle has campaigned for the unused visas to be opened up to Irish emigrants.
"What many of us on the Hill want to do is give Ireland access to the unused visas," Boyle said. "That would go along way to resolving the problem and I am hopeful that we can get that passed."
Boyle previously co-sponsored Rep. Richard Neal's 2018 bill to expand the E-3 visa program to Ireland. The bill passed the House but needed to unanimously pass the Senate and was defeated by one vote - from Arkansas anti-immigration Senator Tom Cotton.
However, Boyle is hopeful that the bill will pass if it is introduced again and said that Democrats controlling the Senate for the first time since 2014 makes things "easier".
"It doesn't eliminate the problem because of the antiquated and goofy rules of the Senate, but it does make things easier."
Boyle said that a thriving Irish economy coupled with the lack of a legal pathway into the United States has almost killed Irish immigration and pointed to the fact that he was the only congress member with an Irish-born parent.
"My father came in the 1970s and I'm the only member of Congress with an Irish parent. That's something I'm both proud of and something that makes me mad as there is so little Irish representation in the United States today."
"Part of that is a result of the Irish economy being so strong, that's obviously a good reason. But the negative part is that the US has almost entirely closed its doors to people from Ireland. Given how much the Irish over the centuries have given to the United States, I just think it's wrong."
Boyle also welcomed President Joe Biden's plans to give millions of undocumented immigrants in the US a pathway to citizenship, including tens of thousands of undocumented Irish.