"We're not giving up on immigration reform," vowed Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) as he addressed an event hosted by the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform.

Schumer was a surprise speaker at the packed immigration meeting which was held at the community services center in Sunnyside Thursday night.

He outlined the challenges facing the Senate bill which he has co-authored with South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham.

Schumer pulled no punches when he said the effort needed another Republican backer in the Senate.

"But," he said, "that's why we need your help."

"We're about ready to go...We're not there yet but we're getting there."

Schumer said there was one solid reason for backing immigration reform, "Immigrants make America better."

And he said, "the more Irish there are in America, the better America is!"

He emphasized that the effort was truly bipartisan and also enjoyed broad support from Labor, big business and religious groups.

About 350 people attended the meeting which was addressed by Bruce Morrison and Ciaran Staunton from the ILIR and representatives from leading Irish organizations including the AOH, GAA and United Irish Counties.

Schumer reminded the crowd that one of the requirements for the new bill would be the ability to speak English.

"That shouldn't be a problem for the Irish," he quipped.