By Ray O'Hanlon
If at first you don't succeed, well, we all know the end of the line.
But if Irish immigration reform hopefuls thought that it was the end of line for the effort to secure E-3 visas for the Irish when Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas brought things to a screeching halt a couple of years ago, former TD John Deasy didn't get the message; or chose to ignore it.
Deasy, according to a recent report in the Irish Times, has been hired by the Ancient Order of Hibernians to lobby on the E-3 visa scheme, this amid a renewed push to secure access for Irish citizens to the program.
The Times report stated in art: "The E3 visa – which was awarded to Australia in 2005 as part of a US-Australia trade agreement – is a two-year renewable visa, which also allows recipients and their spouses to live and work in the United States.
"Mr. Deasy has been retained by the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) to engage with political figures in Washington in a bid to shore-up political support for the Bill.
"The legislative measure would include Irish citizens in a visa scheme that is currently only offered to Australians. Under the Irish proposal, which has been a focal point of the Department of Foreign Affairs’ US policy, Irish citizens could apply for the unused portion of Australia’s annual allocation of 10,500 visas.
"The House of Representatives passed a version of the bill last March, but it has struggled to gain support in the Senate, which blocked the proposal in December 2018."
"Under the proposal, American citizens would be given reciprocal rights to reside in Ireland.
"Mr. Deasy, a former Fine Gael deputy who did not stand in last year’s General Election, said political changes in Washington offered a new window of opportunity to make progress on the proposal.
“Because of the changes that occurred in the last election, there is a fresh opportunity to pass this Bill,” he said, adding that he looked forward to working with the Department of Foreign Affairs on the issue.
“The E3 is an extremely versatile visa. It is a flexible non-immigrant visa that can be renewed indefinitely every two years, and allow the partner of the E3 holder to work.”
There have been political changes in Washington for sure, but the politics of immigration reform has a stubborn consistency to it. Progress is excruciatingly slow.
Nevertheless, the E-3 stands separately from the many ingredients included in the comprehensive reform legislation currently before the Senate and House.
Standing separately is both good and bad. It means the E-3 scheme and any changes to it can be dealt with outside the scrum of Capitol Hill argument surrounding broad reform.
Standing separately and alone, however, means the E-3 program and proposed changes are an easy to see target for hostile legislators such as Senator Cotton.