Reid my lips

By Ray O'Hanlon

With Senate majority leader Harry Reid promising immediate action on comprehensive immigration reform, a more promising backdrop than might have been the case is now in prospect for a gathering of Irish reform backers in Queens, New York, this Thursday evening.

Former congressman Bruce Morrison, a veteran of immigration reform battles on Capitol Hill, is set to address the event being organized by the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform.

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Morrison has addressed the always thorny immigration issue more than once in recent years as the reform effort, and prospects for change brought about by Washington legislators, has risen and fallen like a roller coaster.

Thursday's briefing, at the Sunnyside Community Service Center, promises to be a high point, this following remarks by Sen. Reid at a rally in Las Vegas, Nevada, last weekend.

Reid is up for re-election in the fall, is deep in a tough three-way fight for his seat and is clearly conscious of the need for Hispanic voter support on election day.

This, clearly, comes as good news for undocumented Irish immigrants and their supporters.

"We're going to come back, we're going to have comprehensive immigration reform now," the New York Times reported Reid as saying in a speech to more than 6,000 people.

"We need to do this this year. We cannot wait."

According to the Times, Reid surprised immigrants and advocates with his direct commitment to moving forward with immigration legislation during what promises to be a packed summer legislative calendar in the nation's capital.

"We're going to pass immigration reform, just as we passed health care reform," Reid told the Vegas rally.

His words immediately injected new life into a legislative issue that has lately seemed political moribund. Reid told the rally that he believed he has 56 Senate votes to back reform.

"We need a handful of Republicans," Reid said. As it stands, South Carolina's Senator Lindsey Graham is the GOP point man in a reform effort that does still lack clear, broad support in the Republican Senate caucus.

Graham is right now providing a fig leaf of Republican backing to a reform effort being led by Democratic senator, Charles Schumer.

"We have an able partner in Sen. Graham, but need more republican support to succeed," said Schumer in a statement obtained by the Echo.

"We are hard at work trying to identify the bipartisan support we will need to pass a comprehensive immigration bill. We have the framework of a balanced, sensible bill that is tough, but fair and can end illegal immigration, even while it allows for future legal immigration. We will leave no stone unturned in the effort to put forth and pass a bill this year," Schumer said.

The Las Vegas rally was one of a number of pro-reform events in cities around the country last weekend. Thursday's Queens event is being billed as a "public immigration meeting" with Morrison as main speaker.

"Congressman Morrison will provide an information update on immigration reform and will take questions on where we go from here," said ILIR in advance of the meeting which begins at 8 p.m. at Sunnyside Community Service Center,

43-31 39th St. at Queens Blvd (40th St stop on the #7 train).

Representatives from a number of Irish and Irish American organizations are expected to attend the meeting.