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June 21, 2006

Irish Group to Lobby Washington Again

Irish Group To Lobby Washington, Again

By Gerald McKinstry
The Journal News

(Original publication: June 21, 2006)

An Irish activist group that has been lobbying for
immigration changes is heading back to Washington. This
time, it is focusing on the House of Representatives.

On June 28, the New York-based Irish Lobby for Immigration
Reform will go to the capital to bolster support for
immigration changes in the House. A Senate bill, known as
the Kennedy-McCain bill, passed last month.

Organizers said they would try to meet with several
congressmen - namely Reps. Pete King, R-Long Island; Tom
Tancredo, R-Colo.; and F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.; and
Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, - who now do not
support the Senate's version.

"We're hopefully going to change their views and hopefully
they'll realize this is the best way to fix a broken
immigration system," said Matt Reilly, a Blauvelt man who
has been active in the immigration movement. "We're going
to talk to them and persuade them to support the Kennedy-
McCain bill."

The lobby group expected Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., to
join them. The Senate bill was introduced last year by
Kennedy and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

It called for a guest-worker program that would admit up to
200,000 people per year; hiring of more Border Patrol
agents; building hundreds of miles of fencing on the
border; and allowing illegal immigrants who have been in
the country for at least five years to remain, pay $2,000
in fines and settle back taxes, among other provisions.

It is estimated that the number of illegal immigrants
ranges from 6 million to 11 million and that there are
between 40,000 and 50,000 from Ireland in the United

In March, thousands from the Lower Hudson Valley, the Bronx
Queens, Stamford, Conn., Boston and Philadelphia marched on
the capital to lobby senators. A month later, McCain
visited the Bronx as part of a town hall meeting sponsored
by the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform.

Kelly Fincham, director of the immigration group, said the
trip in March that focused on the Senate was a success and
she expected similar numbers for this trip.

"We're prepared to knock on all 531 doors," she said. "We
would hope to be changing some minds in the House."

Leaders who oppose the Senate's version have raised
concerns about potentially granting amnesty to immigrants.

King, for example, has said cracking down on illegal
immigration was paramount in the post-Sept. 11 world. His
approach called for stricter immigration laws that pay
particular attention to border controls and enforcement. He
has also proposed making it a crime to be in this country

That has many in the Irish community concerned, but Fincham
hoped the trip might change King's mind.

"There's still room for him to be a friend of the Irish,"
she said.

If you go

What: The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform is going to
Washington as part of its efforts to advance immigration
change in the House.
Cost: free
When: June 28
Where: Buses leave from Katonah Avenue in the Bronx at 5
Information: Call 845-359-0392 or 914-595-2558. Visit the
group's Web site at

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