Ireland’s ambassador to the United States, Anne Anderson, is raising the battle cry for Irish immigration advocates to join the fight for immigration reform. She estimated at a luncheon for Irish American business owners that roughly 50,000 undocumented Irish immigrants currently live in the U.S. Anderson explained that while the majority of these immigrants are employed, pay taxes and follow the letter of the law, many of them live in fear of deportation, and cannot leave the U.S. to visit Ireland for family events because of the risk that they would not be allowed to return.
The way the U.S. visa system is set up makes it hard for Irish immigrants to obtain the employment visas they need to work legally in the U.S. The visa allocation system is more than 50 years old, and only provides a small number of visas to immigrants coming from Ireland, because that country has seen so much of its population emigrate to the U.S. Anderson’s argument echoes that of other immigration reform advocates in that she supports a legal pathway for immigration to gain citizenship.
In 2008 a financial crisis in Ireland crippled its banking system and reduced the amount of available jobs for Irish workers, which led many Irish citizens to come to the U.S. in search of work. While Anderson expressed the wish that the immigrants could find work in their native country, she also referenced the fact that many current American CEOs are of Irish descent. At the luncheon for Irish-American business owners, Anderson pleaded, “We have to get this thing moving again. Explain to your member of Congress that this immigration issue wears an Irish face. We have been waiting for a long time.”