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Christmas in the shadows

Taoiseach Enda Kenny during the recent lighting of the Oireachtas Christmas lights in Dublin. photo.

By Ray O'Hanlon

As Taoiseach Enda Kenny dedicated his annual Christmas message to urging Irish emigrants to come home, the undocumented Irish in America can only shrug their shoulders and hunker down for another Christmas in the shadows.

2015 marks the fiftieth anniversary year since the signing of the 1965 immigration reform act, a game changer which turned into a legislative roadblock that all but put an end to significant legal Irish immigration to America.

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At the end of the half century as many as 50,000 Irish are living and working in America but without the benefit of legal status.

Returning to Ireland at Christmas, or indeed any time of the year, is a pipedream as a departure automatically triggers a ten year bar against returning.

Efforts were stepped up this year to secure a waiver against the bars, the Irish Lobby for immigration Reform being to the fore in that effort.

ILIR’s Ciaran Staunton said that it was bitterly disappointing that the year would now run out with no waivers for the Irish in sight.

Against this backdrop, Senator Mark Daly, the Irish Senate’s spokesperson for the Irish Overseas and Diaspora, and Chair of the Ireland America Association, has called on the government to ensure that 2016 is the year the 50,000 Undocumented Irish can come home to see their loved ones.

"With 50,000 Undocumented Irish in America, we estimate that approximately 500,000 people in Ireland - that includes mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and other family members - are affected by the lack of immigration reform in the United States,” Daly said.

“There has been little progress made in 2015. Humanitarian visas were not made available, despite my request that the government ask President Obama to include such a provision in (his) Executive Action.

“People should be given access to humanitarian visas. This would allow them to return to the U.S. if they need to travel home to Ireland to be with family members in times of distress, illness or bereavement.

Continued Daly, who is a member of Fianna Fáil: “I am now calling on the government to work on a resolution for the undocumented Irish in the United States, who have lived there in excess of ten years and have contributed significantly to the U.S. economy, without access to healthcare and social welfare protection.

“This is an emotive and important issue for many families throughout Ireland who miss loved ones, 365 days of the year, and that presence is most profoundly felt at Christmas.

“We need a more concerted effort from the government on this issue.

“The possibility of having loved ones home has been made impossible by a lack of action. I hope we are not in the same position, which we were in last year, and again find ourselves in this year, in Christmas 2016.