Hearing it from the front lines. Tánaiste Micheál Martin speaking with Emerald Isle Immigration Center Executive Director Siobhan Dennehy at the Irish Consulate.

EDITORIAL: Still A Critical Issue

Tánaiste Micheál Martin took renewed note of the undocumented Irish when he spoke at an Irish Consulate reception in New York last week during which was a full week of events for Mr. Martin in the run up to, on and after St. Patrick's Day.

In his address to the gathering Mr. Martin stated: "Providing support and relief for undocumented Irish citizens living in the U.S. continues to be a major priority for the Government, and we will continue to explore all possible immigration pathways for Irish citizens looking to live and work in the U.S.

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"Immigration issues, including possible pathways to citizenship, are a priority for President Biden. I and my Government colleagues will continue to take all opportunities this St. Patrick’s week and beyond, to encourage these efforts and to remind politicians and administrators of the incredible contribution the Irish have made to American society over the centuries."

"All possible immigration pathways." If politics is the art of the possible then, with regard to the issue of immigration, we have witnessed a glaring absence of actual politics on Capitol Hill, not just in recent years, but in recent decades.

Still, hope lives eternal; or somehow staggers along.

Last week, too, Senator Charles Schumer spoke of immigration when he addressed the Ireland Funds gala in the nation's capital.

Said Schumer: "From the Irish troops in the British Army who started the very first St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York; to Hercules Mulligan and Washington’s Army; to the waves and waves that came starting in 1820 and the 1840’s to today, immigration has been the lifeline that created and sustains a deep interconnectivity between Ireland and America.

"But over the last decades, unintended consequences of U.S. policy unfortunately made it harder and harder for the Irish to come to America. Working with one of my mentors, Tip O’Neill, we addressed that. First with the Donnelly visas, which became the Morrison visas, which in time became the Schumer Visas.

"When I became a Senator, the work continued. Over a decade ago, I led the effort with the late Senator McCain to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform in the Senate with broad bi-partisan support.

"And in that bill, I championed a provision granting 10,000 E-visas a year to the Irish people. To rebuild and re-energize a 2-way path between our nations. Now we haven’t passed that bill. Yet. But I will be back at it, and one day I believe we will get it done."

Congressman Brian Donnelly passed just days ago. Congressman Bruce Morrison is retired from politics. Both, of course, were members of the House of Representatives, in recent times the trickier of the two houses on the Hill when it comes to measures that would amount to comprehensive immigration reform.

Present at the Ireland Funds event to hear Schumer speak was House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy is Irish American with family roots in Cork and Mayo. Thus far, however, there has been little evidence that the Speaker is focused on immigration reform as a priority issue.

His views would be interesting to hear. Schumer clearly is interested in hearing because after his line about getting it done he turned to McCarthy and shouted out, according to the official transcript, "Whaddayasay, Kevin?"

Well what indeed do you say Mr. Speaker?

Micheál Martin's concern for the undocumented Irish was absolutely welcome and appropriate. There are fewer undocumented these days than, say, a decade ago, because many simply threw in the towel and returned to Ireland. That is America's loss.

Nobody wants to see mass forced emigration from Ireland ever again, and all indications are that it is indeed a thing of the past.

At the same time, the Irish have earned the right, more than earned the right, not to be denied legal entry to the United States simply because they are Irish.

And somewhere in the Congress there has to be someone, or more than one, who is imagining a new immigration system that brings with it fairness to the Irish, and all nations whose people share the values so loudly proclaimed to the world by America.

We await word from that person or persons. In the meantime, we welcome the words of Tánaiste Martin and Senator Schumer.