DONNYBROOK: Congressional Bill to Add Ireland to the E3 Visa Program
by John Myers
Hopes are high that a second attempt to add the Irish to the E3 Visa program will be successful. The E3 was created in 2005 as part of the US/Australia Trade Agreement and provided for 10,500 Visa’s to be set aside for Aussies annually.
In practice, the Aussie’s only use half of the Visa’s allocated. Rep. Richie Neal (Democrat-Mass.) Chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, as well as the Chair of the Friends of Ireland Caucus, introduced a bill (HR 2877) to allow Irish to use any unused Australian E3 Visa’s.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi brought the action to the floor of the House shortly before St. Patrick’s Day where it received Unanimous support. The Irish E3 Bill moved to the Senate the next day where it is identified as S. 3134. The Irish E3 Bill reached this same point in late 2018 where it died, blocked by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.
The path of this bill requires unanimous Senate approval, Sen. Cotton was the lone holdout. Sen. Cotton refused phone calls from the Irish Deputy Prime Minister and the Irish Ambassador to the United States, refused to even hear their advocacy on behalf of the bill.
At the time of the writing of this article, S. 3134 had not been scheduled for a vote. While Ohio’s Senators Brown and Portman supported it last time, in this current period of anti-immigrant rhetoric, it is important that Irish American’s in Ohio call to reiterate their support for this bill and for an ultimate, comprehensive immigration reform bill.
Under current Immigration Law, Irish Visa’s have dropped to almost a trickle. Statistically, Irish Citizens have little or no chance of gaining a work visa. While the anticipated number of E3 Visa’s for the Irish would only be around 5,000 annually, that number would be about a 500% increase over current numbers, a very welcome expansion. One of the House co-sponsors, Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (Democrat-PA.) called the Irish E3 Bill “A common sense bill that recognizes the important bond we share with two (Australia & Ireland) of our Country’s closest and steadfast allies.”
This bill, however, will not impact the estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish currently living in the shadows here in the U.S.A. For that we will need comprehensive immigration reform, which requires bi-partisan support which is unlikely any time soon given the anti-immigrant bombast coming from the White House.
Regardless, S. 3134 is a small step forward until proactive and comprehensive immigration reform can be sanely debated and voted on. It is estimated that 40 million Americans are the sons and daughters of Irish immigration to the U.S.A. This E3 Bill needs your advocacy, please Call Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office (202-224-2541) to push to allow the Irish E3 bill to come to the Senate floor.
It is looking more and more like it will be Joe Biden v. Don Trump in the Fall Presidential election; both candidates have strong Celtic roots. Trump’s mother was an immigrant from the village of Tong (pronounced tongue) in the Outer Hebrides Islands of Scotland. Mary MacLeod arrived as a penniless immigrant to the U.S.A. at the beginning of the Great Depression.
Mrs. MacLeod Trump became a U.S. citizen during the height of WWII after marrying a successful real estate developer named Fred Trump, the son of German immigrants. Mary Trump was a proud daughter of the Scottish Presbyterian Church. Later in life Mrs. Trump was a familiar sight driving her rose colored Rolls Royce around the Trump family’s Queens NYC neighborhood.
Both of Joe Biden’s parents have Irish roots; his Ma’s family from County Louth and his Da’s family from Ballina, County Mayo. Family names such as Finnerty, Roche, Blewitt, Roche, Boyle and Stanton are in Biden’s Irish family tree. Biden grew up in a strong Irish Catholic family in Scranton, PA. Interestingly Scranton is a Sister City to Ballina. Biden would be the first Catholic in the White House since Jack Kennedy. Both men have visited their ancestral homes.
New U.S. Envoy to Northern Ireland
The post of Special Envoy to Northern Ireland has been vacant since Donald Trump was elected President. Former Sen. Gary Hart last served in that role; he worked under President Obama. Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day visitor’s to Washington, the President has appointed former Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to the vacant post.
Mulvaney, a former Republican congressman from South Carolina was a strong supporter of comprehensive immigration reform and also served as Director of the U.S. Office of Budget is a graduate of Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service and the father of triplets (one daughter attended Trinity College in Dublin). Mulvaney’s grandparents are from County Mayo, Eire.
Mulvaney’s removal as WH Acting Chief of Staff followed shortly after he was quoted from discussions at the Oxford Union that “We (U.S.A.) are desperate-desperate-for more people” arguing that robust immigration is necessary to fuel U.S. economic expansion. Contrary to views articulated by WH anti-immigrant hardliners such as trusted WH aide Stephen Miller.
Both leaders of the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly, Arlene Foster of the DUP and Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Fein welcomed the appointment. It is hoped the American Envoy will push to bring full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and protect the Peace Process from any negative impact from ongoing Brexit negotiations.