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Newry, Mourne and Down Council is to write to USA President, Joe Biden urging him to prioritise the creation of a roadmap to citizenship for for all  those classed as undocumented. It follows a motion from Councillors Barra Ó Muirí and Gerry O Hare which passed unanimously at last nights March Council meeting.

Cllr Muirí addressing the full Council on his motion explained “This motion proposes writing to President Bidenasking him to prioritise legislation to create a roadmap to citizenship for them and all those classed as undocumented.

Boston where many undocumented Irish reside. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Boston where many undocumented Irish reside. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

"President Biden has consistently and continues to be a strong supporter of the Irish peace process, and defender of the Good Friday Agreement.

"He has also been unequivocal in his stance on Brexit. Warning the Johnson government that any trade deal between Britain and the United States, is conditional on the British honouring the Good Friday Agreement”.

The Slieve Gullion area Councillor continued “As one who is deeply proud of his Irish roots, and who is himself a descendant of Irish emigrants to America, I hope that President Biden will look favourably on the plight of the undocumented Irish in the United States.

"It is believed there are as many as 50,000 undocumented Irish people living in the US. Hard-working people, tax payers, home-owners and contributors to society.

"This issue impacts on many from this Newry, Mourne Down and Armagh region , irrespective of their creed or class and it is imperative that all political leaders on this island use their contacts and influence to finally address their nightmare”.

Councillor Ó Muirí said there was now a fresh hope that the undocumented issue would be resolved “Since its inception the United States has offered hope and succour to generations of Irish people, fleeing from poverty, famine and repression. Many of who whom have made considerable contributions to their adopted country.

"I hope that the Biden Presidency will look favourably on the plight of the undocumented Irish. I believe that we can look forward with more optimism than we have felt for quite some time on this issue." 

Really hard to be undocumented

Crotleive Councillor, Cllr Gerry O'Hare gave an emotional view of his experience in America. "Myself I left the north of Ireland in 1985. I was 17 years in America, ten of them years I was undocumented before I got my Green Card and Citizenship. Undocumented means you don't exist unless you are in your own area, the Irish area. What I mean by 'don't exist' is that you can't get a bank account, you can't get a drivers license, social security number, medical insurance. God forbid if you had to go to hospital you had to give wrong addresses, wrong names. It's just a nightmare and you are constantly looking over your shoulder, but the hardest part is whenever you can't get home - You can get home but you won't get back. I missed my Granny and Grandads funerals, I missed Aunts, Uncles funerals, Christmasses for ten years. It's really hard to be undocumented."

Cllr O'Hare added "It is imperative that the issue of the undocumented Irish in America and all the hardships that go with such status are resolved in a humane manner. The fear of not being allowed to re-enter the US, where many Irish people have made good lives for themselves, has meant that these people have been cut off from their families and their native country.

"This has caused much hardship for the undocumented Irish and for their families back home. Return visits, holidays, weddings and even funerals in Ireland are out of the question”.

Cllr O'Hare also spoke of the contribution made by many of those classed as  undocumented “It must be remembered that the undocumented Irish worked very hard and made a powerful contribution to American social life the economy.

"The Irish in America must have their contribution to the country's society recognised and their status formalised. We in Ireland have a responsibility to argue their case to a successful conclusion. This wrong affects us all. There continue  be many sad and distressed homes in the Newry  Mourne and Down  area at times like  Christmas, weddings, funerals and other family gatherings because of the failure to resolve the undocumented issue”.

Concluding the Councillor said “The issue of the undocumented Irish remains unresolved. Our families, friends and members our communities are living under the continued threat of being demonised as felons and being deported.

"This motion and the unanimous support for it is a clear indication that the issue of the undocumented Irish living in America, many of whom are family members and friends, is firmly back on the table.  A letter from this Council will now be sent to President Biden asking him to prioritise legislation to create a roadmap to citizenship for them and all those classed as undocumented”.

Cllr Declan McAteer welcomed the motion and asked for an amendment to support the E3 Visa Bill which was accepted.

Joe's Pint in Bellinis

Cllr Patrick Brown though it might be a bit outside the remit of the powers of the Council but added "If Joe does come over for that pint in Bellinis, maybe we can ask him personally to put this through as a priority."

Cllr David Taylor said "Unlike Cllr Brown I'm not on first name terms with President Biden" The Slieve Gullion Councillor went on to say that his group had some concerns about the motion but he wasn't going to scupper the motion. "We are in a situation where the people who are residing in America who are relevant to this are there illegally, that's the reality of the situation and there's no way of getting round that. There is also an issue of priortising one nationality over another. For instance somebody of Irish Nationality descent could be given priority over someone fleeing war or poverty. There is an ethical issue that we have concerns about and indeed it's up to the United States themselves." 

The Motion

“This Council recognizing the ongoing plight of the thousands of undocumented Irish living in America, many of whom are from this Council region, urges President Biden to prioritise legislation to create a roadmap to citizenship for them and all those classed as undocumented”.

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