President George H W Bush
By Ray O’Hanlon
There were two types of hold today on progress for the Irish E-3 Visas legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week.
One is a series of holds on Senate progress for the visa bill placed by six Republican senators.
The second is the hold on virtually all congressional business until after funeral services for President George H.W. Bush, who died on Friday aged 94.
If he had a say in things, the 41st president would probably advice his fellow Republicans in the Senate to lift their holds.
For this was the man who signed the Morrison Visas into U.S. law.
President Bush, and his predecessor President Ronald Reagan, were broadly supportive of immigration reform, albeit with increased border security aimed at preventing the growth in numbers of illegal and undocumented from all countries, Ireland included.
It was a phone call from President Reagan to GOP Senator Jesse Helms that lifted the latter’s hold on the Senate version of legislation that provided for the Donnelly Visa program.
And it was as president that George H.W. Bush, in the White House Roosevelt Room, signed the Morrison Visas into law on November 29, 1990.
The visas named after Congressman Bruce Morrison were built into the Immigration Act of 1990 which provided for, in the longer term, the Diversity Visa Program, which continues to this day despite hostility from some quarters on Capitol Hill.
Earlier, as vice president in 1988, Mr. Bush had delivered his broad view on immigration thus:
“From Plymouth Rock to Ellis Island to our nation’s many points of entry today, immigrants have always been the backbone of our dreams and accomplishments as a nation and we continue to welcome all people seeking greater political and religious freedom and economic opportunity.”
The E-3 Visa is a particular point of entry for citizens of Australia, but soon Irish citizens too should the legislation approved by the House be signed off by the Senate and signed by President Trump.
Meanwhile, one of the six Republican senators reportedly placing a hold on E-3 progress is Chuck Grassley of Iowa, currently the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
There were unconfirmed reports this morning that Grassley had lifted his hold. This would be a significant development and a signal to the other GOP holds given Grassley’s seniority and influence.