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Blow to hopes of illegal Irish as immigration officers slam bill

The union representing immigration service employees say proposals to reform US immigration ‘will damage public safety’.

Irish lobbies in the United States have been seeking reform of the immigration system - legalising thousands of illegal immigrants - for several years.
Irish lobbies in the United States have been seeking reform of the immigration system - legalising thousands of illegal immigrants - for several years.
Image: Gerald Herbert/AP

HOPES THAT SOME of the thousands of illegal Irish immigrants living in the US could be legalised have taken a blow, after an influential trade union criticised proposals to reform immigration as a threat to national security.

In an open letter, the union representing US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) employees said the measures in the Bill would “damage public safety and national security and should be opposed by lawmakers.”

“The culture at USCIS encourages all applications to be approved, discouraging proper investigation into red flags and discouraging the denial of any applications,” the union alleged.

“USCIS has been turned into an ‘approval machine,” the union added, complaining it had not been consulted by the ‘Gang of Eight’ Senators who drafted the bill.

Similar concerns had been raised by another union, representing US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) workers.

“Instead, the legislation was written with special interests – producing a bill that makes the current system worse, not better,” it said.

Bill could legalise up to 50,000 Irish

A Senate committee recently began its consideration of the massive immigration reform bill, which is supported by President Barack Obama and could offer legal status for millions of undocumented and illegal immigrants in the US, including Irish.

There are an estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish immigrants in the United States, who are ineligible for social security and who are unable to travel home to Ireland for fear that they will be barred from re-entering their adopted homeland.

The committee’s scrutiny could take weeks, before the legislation moves to a second stage in the Senate, where Democrats hold a slender majority.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives would then take up the legislation. Its prospects, however, remain uncertain – even though the legislation is backed by eight senior senators from both parties, including Democratic senator Charles Schumer and Republican veteran John McCain.

The Obama administration has been left to lobby for immigration reform as one of its last priorities, particularly after its failure to secure the passage of new gun control laws.

Additional reporting by AFP

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Gavan Reilly

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