Major Immigration Meeting Set
An email went out this week to Irish organizations throughout the Philadelphia area announcing a meeting Monday night with the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform to discuss Senate Bill 1983 which would allow 10,500 Irish citizens to come to the US on E3 work visas. The visas now are available only to professionals in specialty occupations from Australia. The E-3 provision was signed into law in 2005 by President George W. Bush.
The Bill, introduced by Democratic New York Sen. Charles Shumer, came on the heels of HR 3012, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2011, which eliminates the country-specific quotas on green cards for workers, mainly techies from India and China. Demand is high in the US for those highly skilled professionals. The bill also includes a measure that will more than double the available green cards based on family ties for mainly Mexican and Filipino immigrants who are in the US legally. Many of those family members now are faced with as much as a two-decades long wait. That GOP-sponsored bill passed the House and is awaiting Senate action.
The E3 work visa is not a green card, which grants permanent US residence to the foreign-born, but a visa program that allows foreign workers to come to the US for employment. It’s renewable every two years. Currently, a college degree is a requirement for an E3 visa and would likely be the case for E3s granted to Irish citizens.
Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (Rep.) has proposed a bill similar to Shumers’, except that under Brown’s proposal, undocumented workers—those already here illegally—cannot apply.
Ciaran Staunton, a Mayo native and New York-based founder of the Irish Lobby for Immigration, will be at Finnigan’s Wake at Second and Spring Garden Street on Monday night, January 9, starting at 7 PM to discuss the various proposals.
While it’s far from comprehensive immigration reform, says Siobhan Lyons, executive director of the Irish Immigration Center of Philadelphia, the Schumer bill, “if it goes through, will be a great first step toward a sensible solution to our current immigration problems.”
The HR 3012 family provision doesn’t apply to the Irish, she says, but it’s not necessarily discriminatory, as some have claimed. “There are countries other than Ireland with huge waiting lists of people who are already qualified for green cards,” she points out. “In some places, there are people who have been waiting for green cards for 15 to 30 years before they’re able to join their families. This is not much of an issue for the Irish. The problem is that the Irish don’t qualify for green cards in the first place.”