Senator Billy Lawless
By Ray O’Hanlon
The 45th president is promising a “great” immigration bill.
Irish American community leaders are attempting to parse the meaning of the word this week as President-elect Donald Trump begins to assemble an administration that will take office in January.
Mr. Trump stated his intention to present a “great” immigration bill during his interview with “60 Minutes” on CBS.
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He did not mention the word “reform.”
Mr. Trump’s campaign was dominated by talk of deportations and building a wall along the Mexican border, this in the context of the immigration issue.
Chicago-based Billy Lawless, a member of the Irish Senate, reacted to Trump’s win by saying that the Irish government should focus on Vice President-elect Mike Pence as an ally so as to help the undocumented Irish in the U.S.
Lawless said Governor (and former congressman) Pence had “a great affinity for Ireland” and was one of “few Republican congressman to advocate for common sense immigration reform.”
He told the Irish Independent that Donald Trump’s rhetoric has been “terrible towards immigrants” and immigration reform campaigners faced a “tough battle.”
Dan Dennehy, National Director and Immigration Chairman for the Ancient Order of Hibernians, noted that many Irish American Catholics had voted for Mr. Trump.
He said that the plight of the undocumented Irish was one of the main issues for the Hibernians and this had been relayed repeatedly over the years to the Republican Party.
The GOP, he said, now possessed an “entire mandate” and would have to do something.
Ciaran Staunton, Chairperson of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, struck a cautious note.
He expressed concern at “misleading media reports” about the potential deportation of undocumented immigrants under the platform put forward by President-elect Trump.
“We would like to emphasize that Donald Trump himself has said that he wants U.S. authorities to focus on undocumented immigrants who have criminal records, not those without criminal records,” Staunton said.
“We must not scare and cause unnecessary concern in our community with false and sensationalized headlines. We all have responsibility to report the truth and provide our community with real updates on what is happening,” he added.
“While we are all concerned with many of President-elect Trump’s statements on immigration during his campaign, we urge people not make any rash decisions, or live in fear of a knock on the door. We will keep a close eye on events as they progress in Washington.”
In his “60 Minutes” the interview Mr. Trump was pressed on his campaign statements relating to immigration by interviewer Lesley Stahl.
Trump responded ‘yes’ when asked if he still planned to build a wall along the 2,000 mile border with Mexico though he qualified this by stating that the barrier could in part be a fence.
With regard to a promise to deport millions of undocumented immigrants the President-elect said: “What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, we have a lot of these people, probably two million, it could be even three million, we are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate. But we’re getting them out of our country, they’re here illegally. After the border is secured and after everything gets normalized, we’re going to make a determination on the people that you’re talking about who are terrific people, they’re terrific people but we are gonna make a determination at that. But before we make that determination, Lesley, it’s very important, we want to secure our border.”
Towards the conclusion of the interview Mr. Trump, according to a CBS transcript, said: “Well, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do, I’m going to think about it. Um, I feel that I want to focus on jobs, I want to focus on healthcare.
“I want to focus on the border and immigration and doing a really great immigration bill. We want to have a great immigration bill. And I want to focus on all of these other things that we’ve been talking about.”