Legalize the irish

D.C. 9.30 a.m.

By Ray O'Hanlon

The notice on the committee website is all about business.

That the future of millions of people, many thousands of Irish included, will be dependent on what follows over the next three weeks or so is not evident in the bland text.

It states: "The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its next executive business meeting at 9:30 am on Thursday, May 9, 2013, to consider S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. The bipartisan legislation was introduced on April 17. The first amendment circulated to the bill is the Sponsors' Amendment, which is expected to be offered at the next executive business meeting."

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The bill, in its current form, offers a path, albeit a long and tortuous one, to millions of undocumented and illegal immigrants. By some estimates, there are 50,000 Irish nationals in this total, most of them living in the shadows for many years.

The judiciary panel is chaired by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, long seen as a friend of Ireland and the Irish.

But while there is bipartisan support for S.744, hostility also lurks in the legislative long grass.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that Republican opponents of legislation to overhaul the nation's immigration laws "are readying an offensive intended to hijack the newly released bill as the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday begins a review that will offer the clearest sign yet of how difficult a path the legislation faces."

The report suggested that Republican critics "could offer hundreds of amendments to try to reshape the overhaul."

Backers such as Senators Charles Schumer and Dick Durbin, both members of the so-called "Gang of Eight" who crafted S.744, are hoping that the bill emerges from the committee in at least roughly recognizable form.

For this to happen they will need support from GOP members such as Senator Lindsey Graham and hope that his GOP colleague, Alabama's Jess Sessions, will pull at least some punches.

Members of the House of Representatives, meanwhile, are working on their own version of a comprehensive immigration reform bill.