No Irish...

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ILIR is looking anew to Senator Charles Schumer for action on E3 visas.[/caption]

Immigration reform has been a lost art in congress in recent years but this week the House of Representatives sprang into life on the issue.

In a rare show of unity the House passed H.R. 3012, a bill that will allow highly skilled immigrants from several countries, though not Ireland, to gain legal entry to the U.S.

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The bill, penned by Representatives Jason Chaffetz, a conservative freshman Republican from Utah, and Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, "sailed through by a vote of 389 to 15," the New York Times reported.

That means cross-party support on a scale that has been virtually unprecedented in recent times.

The Times reported that the bill seemed likely to pass easily in the Senate, this on the basis of a prediction of New York's Senator Charles Schumer.

The bill will primarily benefit would-be immigrants from India and China with high level technology skills.

The bill will eliminate limits on the number of green cards based on employment available annually to each of these countries.

The bill also includes a measure that will more than double the green cards based on family ties available for Mexicans and Filipinos, the two national groups facing the longest backlogs on the family side of the legal immigration admission system.

The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform reacted with surprise and some puzzlement at the bill's sudden emergence and rapid progress.

The group has been trying for years to obtain more legal visas for the Irish who have been virtually shut of the annual legal immigration flow.

"What about the Irish?" said Hugh Meehan, ILIR chairman in Boston.

"The Massachusetts chapter of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform urges the Irish community to let our senators know that we expect them to push for the 'Irish E-3 Amendment' to H.R. 3012 Tell them that you want the Irish E-3 to be added to H.R. 3012 before it passes the Senate," Meehan said in a statement.

"This amendment would provide 10,500 annual visas (plus dependents) for Irish men and women to come legally to work in the U.S. The skill level would be the same as the Diversity lottery," he said.