It may shock some people in Ephrata but there are an estimated 50,000 Irish immigrants living in the United States without a legal status. What’s more, they are certainly not the only group of Europeans who have overstayed temporary work, student or visitor visas. And just like many of the other immigrant activists, Irish immigrants are also pushing for the same pathway to citizenship that would allow them to not worry about low-paying work, health care and deportation. Just like every other immigrant without a legal status, they need serious changes to the immigration system to be able to become permanent residents and citizens.
When many of the Irish immigrants’ visas expired, they were able to find jobs that allowed them to get by undetected: restaurant servers, nannies and laborers. They are unable to return to their native Ireland to visit friends and family because if they leave and try to come back, they may be barred entry or deported.
These Irish immigrants are taking an active role in pushing for immigration reform, too. They have targeted many politicians of Irish descent, making the connections that other groups of immigrants without a legal status have struggled to do in the past. Unfortunately, many people in Pennsylvania and across the country think of immigrants living in the country without legal permission are all somehow different than them, but there are people of all backgrounds living in this country without a legal status.
Whether the Irish influence on immigration can push forward reform in the U.S. House of Representatives before the end of the year remains to be seen.
Source: WGBH, “Boston’s Irish Immigrants Push for Comprehensive Immigration Bill,” Tan Chan and Siobhan Murray, Aug. 16, 2013