Another Chance for the Undocumented Irish

Senator Bob Menendez


By Ray O'Hanlon

Another year, another chance. And it has been years since the last real chance, eight of them to be precise.

Democrats in Congress today rolled out an immigration reform bill designed to address an array of people including the estimated eleven million illegal/undocumented in the United States.

Though the precise number of Irish who fall into the category of undocumented is debated and hard to pin down, it certainly runs into the thousands.

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"Democrats will formally file President Biden’s immigration bill on Thursday, facing steep odds as they attempt to create the first major path to U.S. citizenship for undocumented immigrants in nearly 35 years," the Washington Post was reporting.

The legislation, the U.S. Citizenship Bill of 2021, is sponsored in the Senate by Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, and in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Linda Sanchez of California.

"The legislation faces significant hurdles in a divided Senate still reeling from the impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump, who often tapped into anti-immigration rhetoric to fire up his campaign rallies," the Post report stated.

"The U.S. government has not passed a major citizenship bill since 1986, when amnesty legislation signed by Republican President Ronald Reagan legalized nearly 3 million undocumented immigrants."

It was that legislation that sparked a campaign on behalf of the Irish because tens of thousands had arrived in the U.S. after a specified cut off date in the '86 act. That campaign led to the Donnelly, Morrison, Berman and Schumer/Diversity Visa programs, but even all of them combined failed to provide relief to all of the undocumented Irish in the fifty states.

Many, then, have been living in the shadows for decades.

The new bill lays a heavy emphasis on people already in the U.S. such as the undocumented, farm workers, refugees and "Dreamers." It contains little language referring to border security and that is likely to only stiffen opposition, especially from Republicans in Congress, many of whom will see the proposed eight year process leading to citizenship as being little more than amnesty.

But unlike in previous years, 2013 for example, when a bipartisan "gang of eight" group in the Senate drew up a bill that passed only to die in the House, Democrats might go it alone this time by way of "budget reconciliation."

This would only require a simple majority in the Senate and not 60 votes that would bring cloture. A simple majority on the House would also be all that would be required for passage and sending a combined bill to President Biden's desk for signing.