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Not All Immigrants Look Alike

Immigration seems to have many faces and covers more than those from Mexico and South America. Today of all days, take a moment to dig deep and think about your perceptions.

I have pasted in an article that ran in March in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Irish are standing up to be counted among the nation's illegal immigrants, hoping their civic appeal at St. Patrick's Day will soften the debate over immigration reform.

At St. Patrick's Day parades in San Francisco and Chicago last weekend, activists with the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform wore white-and-green T-shirts saying "Legalize The Irish" and passed out flyers urging people to call their elected representatives in support of allowing undocumented workers to earn legal status as guest workers. Similar activism is expected at parades in other cities in coming days.

Adding heft to the immigrants' message, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, who visited San Jose on Tuesday, plans to push President Bush for legal status for illegal Irish immigrants when he visits the White House on Friday, St. Patrick's Day.

Although most of this country's 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants are from Mexico and Central America, about 50,000 Irish people are among 3 million illegal immigrants from countries outside Latin America. Other countries contributing significantly to illegal immigration are Russia, Poland, Canada, Haiti, Korea, India, China and the Philippines.

"We've had some very surprised reactions when they hear it is an issue for the Irish," said Celine Kennelly, executive director for the Irish Immigration Pastoral Center in San Francisco, an advice and referral service sponsored by the Irish Catholic Conference of Bishops.

"They are in as dire straits as any other ethnic group," said Kennelly, who estimates there are 3,000 to 4,000 Irish illegal immigrants in San Francisco, most working in construction, in restaurants or as nannies and caretakers for the elderly. "They cannot get driver's licenses, it's harder to open bank accounts, they cannot travel home and return again. ... The relationship between Ireland and America is so long and fantastic, but it's in danger now."

More than 250,000 Irish immigrants reside in the United States, according to the census, and most of them are here legally. But in recent decades, most arrivals from Ireland have overstayed their visas and become illegal immigrants, said Kennelly, because the government is issuing fewer work visas. A 1991 program offered legal permanent residence to about 16,000 undocumented Irish, but there has been no legalization plan since then.

Kennelly helped organize a town hall meeting in San Francisco this month that drew 1,000 Irish immigrants ready to campaign on the issue. And she was among 2,000 Irish people who rallied in Washington last week for guest-worker legislation sponsored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

San Francisco Federal Building in a push for immigration reform. Organizer Sheila Chung said she expects participation from Irish immigrants, as well as Latino, Filipino, Chinese, Caribbean, Arab and others.

Irish participation -- motivated in part by Catholic archbishops -- can help advance the immigration-reform movement, said East Bay immigration lawyer Sarnata Reynolds, who is Irish by birth.

"They're a community that isn't viewed as 'bad.' People don't assume they might be undocumented," she said. "The Irish lobby has been very well organized for years, and they have a tradition of rallying around issues of social justice."

In Chicago on Friday, hundreds of Irish residents joined an unprecedented 100,000-strong rally opposing a bill that passed the House last year and another proposed bill that's scheduled to come to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday that would make it a felony to be an illegal immigrant or to aid one.

"Most people thought it was just a Mexican thing, but it's not. It's Irish, Polish, Korean, Chinese," said Billy Lawless, the owner of two Chicago pubs who led a contingent called Celts for Immigration Reform. "If they want to deport the whole group, who's going to work in our kitchens? Who's going to work in our construction industry?"

Lawless compared the anti-immigrant sentiment he has encountered from groups like the Minutemen to the cold reception Irish immigrants received when they fled the potato famine in their homeland in the 19th century.

Illegal Irish immigrants, like those from other parts of Europe and Asia, generally enter the United States on a legitimate work, school or tourist visa and stay after it expires.

In the Bay Area, immigrant advocates plan a hunger strike and candlelight vigil all next week at the

Posted by Catherine on May 1, 2006
in Current Affairs, Politics, SCOTUS | Permalink| Comments (2) | TrackBack (2)


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Well, we all know what is going on don't we?

Things are not going well, so there is a group of folks distracting us trying to get us to hate the outsiders as they become insiders. Old technique which works well at distracting attention from real problems to divisive and fictional ones...

Posted by: denisdekat | May 1, 2006 4:28:32 PM

hi!!! i just found out my moms like great great g-parents were irish! isnt that like totaly rad!

Posted by: Lachelle | May 17, 2006 2:30:37 PM

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