Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights Director on Immigration Reform Executive Action

President Obama announced new plans last Thursday that will give legal status to many of the estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish living in the USA. After mounting pressure from Irish and other immigrant groups in the wake of the US mid-terms, he issued an executive order that will halt deportations and provide a temporary work permit for certain immigrants.

Up to 5 million of the estimated 11 million undocumented will qualify under the newest form of administrative relief. The new order will expand the number of people eligible under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) –immigrants brought to the USA unlawfully when children – and provides relief for undocumented immigrants who have US citizen or Legal Permanent Resident sons or daughters.

Following the announcement the President flew to Las Vegas to attend at a rally in a local high school. Billy Lawless, a Galway native and Chairman of the Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform, was seated in the front row as President Obama detailed his new executive order. Lawless, a restaurateur and tireless advocate for the Irish undocumented, has been a regular visitor to the White House in recent months as immigration plans developed. To make the point that immigration is not just a Latino issue, the President, with a knowing nod to Lawless from the podium, quipped “I’m from Chicago and we have some Irish folks whose papers aren’t in order too” and “whether we were Irish or Germans crossing the Atlantic, generations of immigrants made this country”.

The new Deferred Action order is only temporary however and can be undone by the next President to enter the White House in 2017. Any long term hopes to extend the reprieve lie in Congress passing legislation, which it has thus far been unable to do. Despite the President’s action, immigration remains a political hot potato and will continue to divide both parties for the foreseeable future.

Breandán G. Magee
Senior Director of Programs
Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Author: UI