Friday, July 10, 2009

The New Undocumented -- The Irish

There have always been undocumented Irish workers. In the 80s and 90s many young Irish came to work temporarily -- legally or illegally -- and always a few remained. The lure of the U.S. job market faded as the Celtic Tiger emerged. Now many Irish returned home as the economy boomed with membership in the European Union. Now the Irish economy has gone bust and the Irish are following familiar paths to New York, Boston and Chicago in search of jobs. (See New York Times article.) This new illegal migration begins with a tourist visa and a warm welcome in generally prosperous Irish neighborhoods. Family ties and ethnic bounds are expected to generate jobs. But in this tight economy these are hard to come by. Still many of the new immigrants find it better than back home.

The new Irish immigrants, unlike the Mexican newcomers who are fleeing grinding poverty, are refugees from a boom. Well educated and use to better, they did well in Ireland. If they were in America previously, it was just for a couple of months to make a little bundle of cash -- and back to steady jobs in Ireland. Now there is little hope there and their intended here stay is indefinite. Still, like the Mexican experience (see Arizona Republic article on the impact of remittances on Mexico), most immigrants have close ties and obligations back home. Community advocates have commented that much of the new migration is of men who have left wives and children to keep heavily mortgaged, unsaleable home occupied.

The experience of the Irish has not been reflected yet with other old immigrant groups. There always has been an undocumented issue among the Poles. Every other new immigrant groups -- Asians, Arabs, Indians, Pakistanis, Haitians -- have their own particular issues. True comprehensive reform must respond to all their needs and concern. So reform must be a coalition

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