If New York Senator Charles Schumer has anything to do with it, the estimated 50,000 Irish undocumented in the U.S. will have an immigration bill to look forward to by the end of this year or early next.
Schumer, chairman of the Senate Immigration Subcommittee, said he aspires to have a comprehensive immigration reform bill before the Senate by Labor Day.
“When the president asks me whether we can pass comprehensive immigration reform this Congress, I will smile and say, ‘Mr. President, yes we can. All of the fundamental building blocks are in place to pass comprehensive immigration reform this session and, even possibly, later this year,’” Schumer said while addressing the Migration Policy Institute’s conference at Georgetown University in New York two weeks ago.
“I have no doubt that President Obama has an unyielding commitment to achieving comprehensive immigration reform. And I truly believe that his leadership will be the critical difference in getting us over the hump this time around,” he added.
Schumer, a Democrat who has firmly supported the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) in the past, said his bill will be tough on future waves of illegal immigration and will be kinder to those immigrants who have skills to offer.
Last Wednesday Schumer outlined seven principles he said would represent the foundation of a solid, structured comprehensive immigration reform bill.
One of Schumer’s top priorities in creating workable legislation is to take a strong-arm stance on illegal immigration. He suggests using a biometric-based employer verification system to identify employees.
Schumer said protecting the U.S. borders was a necessity. He suggested a year time line to enact “operation control” of the borders, which would include increasing infrastructure, technology, and border personnel.
The undocumented immigrants who wish to apply for legal status if Schumer’s proposals becomes law must be present in the U.S. on the date the bill is enacted. Persons will then be required to register their presence in the country with the U.S. government.
Schumer’s bill would also include family reunification provisions and a controlled flow of legal immigration for high skilled workers.
“We have a shortage maybe of engineers here or PhDs in physics, but we probably don't have a shortage of people who can do construction work,” he said.
Schumer said a bill could be on its way sooner rather than later.
“I think we'll have a good bill by Labor Day,” Schumer told the Associated Press last week. “I think the fundamental building blocks are in place to do comprehensive immigration reform.”
Earlier this year, the Change to Win and the AFL-CIO labor unions threw their support behind immigration reform. In the past they have condemned a comprehensive immigration bill.
Last week Schumer met with Obama to outline his plans for moving the comprehensive immigration reform debate forward.
The White House has convened two hearings titled “Road to Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2009: Clearing the Hurdles.”
The first hearing examined whether comprehensive immigration reform could be enacted in 2009. The second hearing examined the current state of border security and the remaining steps that need to be taken to achieve operational control over the entire border
This month, Schumer will hold two more hearings. The first will consider all of the existing ideas and solutions for achieving a simple and workable biometric-based employment verification system. The second hearing will determine how best to structure employment-based immigration system for the future.
Meanwhile, Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin told the Irish government last week that hopes of working out a bilateral deal with the U.S. government for the Irish undocumented looked highly unlikely.
ILIR, in conjunction with the Irish government, has been working to secure an E-3 visa deal with the U.S. similar to the arrangement the U.S. has with Australia. The visa allows citizens from both countries to live and work in either country for an indefinite period of time.
“While the inclusion of Ireland in an expanded version of the E-3 program would provide extensive new opportunities for Irish people to work in the U.S. and help ensure that a new generation of undocumented Irish does not develop, our friends on Capitol Hill have been clear that the status of the undocumented Irish cannot be addressed in isolation from other ethnic groups," said Martin, who spent a week with a congressional delegation that recently visited Ireland.
Looking towards a comprehensive immigration reform approach in the U.S., Martin said it is a welcome development.