“just an attempt to, as they say on Wall Street, ‘put lipstick on that pig'”

While waiting to see what, if any, public converstaion takes place on those border issues there’s another, somewhat related, conversation trying to take shape. In the Irish Times, campaigner Frank Sharry, executive director of the US National Immigration Forum, reckons it could take up to 10 years before US immigration reform “becomes viable to have it back at the table” – and not just because of contradictions between Ministers of State. From the Irish Times article [subs req]

Sharry believes that despite the tough measures contained in the Bill (undocumented migrants would have had to pay thousands of dollars in fines and would not have been eligible for permanent residence for eight years, for example), Republican opponents succeeded in portraying the proposal as an amnesty that would reward law-breakers. Democrats, themselves unsure about its feasibility, were half-hearted advocates. “So the combination meant the grand bargain that was negotiated in the backroom, when it went public, was something of an orphan.”

Frank Sharry is also sceptical of any proposed bilateral ‘special case’ agreement for Irish illegal immigrants, as suggested by Dermot Ahern previously.

While Sharry is supportive of the Government’s efforts to secure a bilateral agreement that would regularise the status of the undocumented Irish, he is not convinced it will succeed.

“I would be supportive of it, but I don’t see its viability, because people on the right will label it an amnesty and people on left will say, ‘how come these white immigrants are going to get status rather than many others?'”

Meanwhile inside the paper there’s an additional article [subs still], by Trina Vargo founder and president of the US-Ireland Alliance, who argues that “Irish-Americans trying to get a special deal only for Irish illegal migrants in the US are wrong.”

The US immigration system needs fixing, but it requires a comprehensive and united approach. The deportation of 12 million people is clearly not possible, and pragmatism favours efforts to create an earned path to citizenship for those in the US illegally. Sadly, that effort has been stalled.

But to support a special deal that would single out illegal Irish immigrants for preferential treatment would be morally wrong, could harm the US-Ireland relationship, damage the high regard in which Irish-Americans are held, and lead to a divisive debate in the US between the Hispanic community and the Irish-American community.

The Irish economy is strong, and a special deal is not justified on economic grounds. The majority of those attending the rallies for the illegal Irish immigrants are young people, people who came to the United States when jobs were plentiful at home.

These are not people who fled extreme economic hardship, political persecution, physical torture, or an undemocratic government. Jobs are so plentiful in Ireland that in recent years, Government officials have travelled to the US to urge the Irish to return home. It is to be celebrated that Ireland is now a country of wealth, prosperity and opportunity. Now one of the richest countries in the world, it is a not a place anyone has to leave.

Supporters of a special deal for the Irish say there is precedent, that this was done for Australia. What they neglect to point out is that those visas had nothing to do with illegal immigrants. They were about trade agreements and facilitating the movement of professionals to the US. They were temporary visas subject to stringent eligibility requirements. The visas were only available to those with specific professional skills and for specific jobs pursuant to trade agreements.

There is also talk of trying to mask a “special deal” by cloaking it in innocuous immigration provisions but this is just an attempt to, as they say on Wall Street, “put lipstick on that pig”.