Donegal Co. Council to help undocumented Irish in US

Donegal Co. Council to help undocumented Irish in US

Donegal Co. Council to help undocumented Irish in US

Donegal Co. Council to help undocumented Irish in US

Donegal county councillors agreed this week that they must do what they can to help undocumented Irish people living in the United States.

At Monday's reconvened November council meeting, councillors across party lines supported a motion tabled by Sinn Fin Cllr Marie-Therese Gallagher calling on the council to raise issues regarding undocumented Irish "with all relevant authorities".

"These could be somebody's brother, sister, daughter, and they are," Cllr Gallagher said. "They all have people living at home.

"I think we need to do something here today to push it home," she said, asking councillors for their perspective on how to move forward.

Last week councillors approved a motion tabled by Fianna Fil Cllr Dessie Larkin that called on the council to support the work of the Boston Donegal GAA in providing support to new immigrants from Donegal to the states.

Cllr Gallagher's motion raised the problems many Donegal people encountered in obtaining visas for the United States; the need to reduce detention times for Irish citizens found overstaying their waver, with an assurance that there would be no associated criminal conviction; and the need to reinstate a provision in US immigration law that would allow people to become permanent residents without leaving the states.

The provision, called a 245(i), would enable Irish people to reapply for their visas without being sent home. Thousands of people who missed the January 1998 deadline to adjust their status cannot make the adjustment in the states and cannot return to Ireland to obtain a green card without being subject to a lengthy ban on their return to the states.

Councillors said they were not sure the local motion would have an impact on the international issue, but said they supported the intention. Fianna Fil Cllr Rena Donaghey said: "It's a good motion, but I just wonder how much power we have." Still, she seconded the motion.

"Most of these people are law-abiding people who essentially just want to work in the country and over the years have contributed greatly to the United States," Fine Gael Cllr Terence Slowey said. "They are not people who would intentionally break the law in any way."

Fine Gael Cllr Martin Harley said the problems of undocumented Irish people should be kept high on the agenda, and urged the council to lobby the county's TDs and senators "and keep pressure on from that side."

"Anything this council can do as a body should be done," independent Cllr Ian McGarvey said, adding that any elected members who travel to the states for St. Patrick's Day should ensure the issue is raised.

Labour Cllr Frank McBrearty Jr. suggested the motion be forwarded to the Department of Foreign Affairs. And Fine Gael Cllr Noel McBride agreed that the matter needed to be higher on the agenda.

Donegal Mayor, Sinn Fin Cllr Cora Harvey, said the motion will also be circulated to all councils.

"I don't think we're going to get a magic wand, but if we can put the pressure on it's a good start," Cllr Gallagher said.