Bertie to plead with Bush for 25,000 Irish in US

By Gene McKenna

of the Belfast Telegraph


09 March 2006

US President George W Bush will next week be asked to allow up to 25,000 undocumented Irish regularise their status in the US.

Both Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot
Ahern will raise the issue at the St Patrick’s Day ceremonies in the
White House tomorrow week as they did on the same occasion at the
ceremonies last year.

Irish-American campaign have now formed a major group, the Irish
Lobby for Immigration Reform, which had a rally in New York’s Gaelic
Park on Sunday and yesterday organised a march to Capitol Hill in
Washington. During eight visits to the US last year, Dermot Ahern held
a series of top-level meetings with Senators and Congressmen in New
York, Washington and Boston to press for a breakthrough which would
help bring about a resolution to the problem.

He is expected to meet the leader of the Irish lobby group, Niall O’Dowd, again in Washington next week.

Many emigrants have found themselves in traumatic situations in
having to decide whether to stay in the US or return home to visit sick
relatives with the risk that they would not be allowed back into the
US.

The Kennedy-McCain Bill put forward by Senators Ted Kennedy
(Democrats) and John McCain (Republican) is still believed to be a long
way from being approved.

Under this Bill, undocumented people could regularise their status by applying for a temporary residency visa.

They would receive work and travel authorisation, which would
provide them with greater protection in the work place and allow them
to travel to and from Ireland without fear of being refused re-entry to
the US.

What distinguishes the Kennedy/McCain Bill from other proposals is
that it includes a path to permaHnent residency. Official estimates
here of the number of undocumented Irish living in the US range from
20,000 to 25,000.

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