Irish getting early foot in visa door

By Ray O'Hanlon

There's no first come, first served when it comes to immigration reform.

But that doesn't mean you don't get a word in, and at least a figurative foot in the door.

And that's what the Irish government is doing, this according to a report in the political newspaper, The Hill.

With a reported nine people emigrating every hour, a sense of urgency in the Irish capital is understandable.

According to The Hill, foreign governments are working hard to shape the debate on immigration reform as momentum for a comprehensive bill builds in Congress.

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While the issue routinely comes up in talks between foreign leaders and the executive branch, embassy officials are ramping up their outreach to Congress and the White House in order to take advantage of the best hope for reform in years.

"A number of countries with significant immigration ties to the United States - notably Mexico, Ireland and several Central American nations - have been making their concerns known while doing their best to avoid meddling in domestic affairs," the report said.

While the report primarily concentrates on Mexico and several Central American countries, it points out that "other countries" are acting to preserve their historic bonds with the United States.

"Ireland, in particular, has pressed for years for a path for legalization for the 50,000 Irish who are in the country illegally," the report states.

Ambassador Michael Collins brought the issue to the attention of Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, a leading House immigration reform advocate during a meeting on Capitol Hill.

Stated the report: "Congressman Gutiérrez is a great friend of Ireland," the embassy told The Hill.

"Ambassador Collins was delighted to meet with him for a discussion about U.S. immigration issues, on which the congressman is a key figure."

The Hill account continued: "And Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore told the Irish Parliament on Tuesday that he will 'hold a series of telephone discussions with key U.S. senators over the coming days' about the issue.

It concluded: "Immigration is also expected to be high on the agenda when Irish leaders make their annual visit to the United States for St. Patrick's Day, on March 17, an embassy source said. Ireland also hopes to be eligible for a greater number of immigrant visas allowing the Irish to stay and work in the country legally."