Chicago jpg

In Chicago, O’Malley calls again for immigration reform

Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley (center) with Billy Lawless on the right.

By Irish Echo Staff

Former Maryland Governor and Democratic presidential candidate, Martin O’Malley, has called for comprehensive immigration reform and has linked reform to his vision of a stronger U.S. economy.

O’Malley reiterated his long held views on reform while attending the Illinois Business Coalition’s presidential candidate series.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

He was the first Democratic candidate to attend the rolling forum.

The form was attended by Consul General of Ireland in Chicago, Orla McBreen, and over a hundred prominent Irish and Latino immigrant business leaders at IBIC’s Presidential Candidates Forum, said a release from the group.

During his two terms as Governor, O’Malley signed bills providing undocumented immigrants in Maryland access to driver's licenses and in-state tuition rates at public colleges.

Each law was put to a voter referendum in the 2012 general election and upheld by a majority of the voting public. Governor O'Malley has demonstrated that leading on commonsense immigration solutions is good economics, better morals and winnable politics, the release stated.

“I firmly believe that our country succeeds when we include more people, more fully, into the economic, social and political fabric of our country. We must strengthen our economy and hold true to our values by taking eleven million of our neighbors out of the shadow economy and into the full light of our American economy,” said O’Malley.

“It is who we are, who we've always been and how we will ensure our strength in the future,” he said.

“In the restaurant business, undocumented immigrants are the backbone of our workforce. They are the sweat, inspiration and creative minds behind the food industry,” said Billy Lawless, reform advocate and Irish restaurateur in Chicago.

Lawless, a Galway native and chairman of the Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform, cofounded IBIC with Chairman Emeritus of Exelon, John Rowe, to highlight the business community’s need for common sense immigration reform.

“Undocumented immigrants work hard. They pay taxes. They create jobs. As the largest private sector employer in the state of Illinois, the restaurant industry needs commonsense immigration reform with a clear path to citizenship more than ever,” Lawless said.

While Congress continues to sputter over reform, IBIC’s Presidential Candidates Forum, according to the group’s release, “engages candidates from both sides of the aisle on the urgency to pass reform that is politically smart, economically sound, morally right, and makes us safer.”

IBIC’s forum kicked last July with Republican Presidential Candidate and U.S. Senator, Lindsey Graham. IBIC has invited presidential candidates from both parties to participate.

Said the IBIC release: The overwhelming majority of the 11 million undocumented immigrants migrate for a better future for their families, including the estimated 50,000 Irish undocumented currently here.

“They do honest work. They work hard. They keep places like Chicago, New York, Boston, Harvard (IL) – big cities and small towns - up and running each day. They pay $15 billion in taxes every year. They have paid $150 billion to the Social Security Trust fund from which they are ineligible to receive benefits.

“It is bad for the economy to have millions of people working in the shadows.

It is bad for national security when we do not know who is in the country and for what purpose. It is bad for the country when families are kept apart.

“The Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform and IBIC urge Congress to act on real solutions that reflect the realities of our current economy, protect hardworking immigrant workers, create American jobs and make us safer.”