Sen. Brown Sponsors Bill to Let 10,500 Irish a Year Enter US to Work

Thursday, 22 Mar 2012 04:38 PM

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Sen. Scott Brown is sponsoring a bill to allow 10,500 Irish nationals to enter the United States each year to work to reverse a bias that he says started in the 1960s.

The Massachusetts Republican’s bill, whose bipartisan supporters include Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, would redress what Brown contends is discrimination against Irish nationals inadvertently caused under a 1965 overhaul of the U.S. immigration system, reports.

That policy shift targeted bias against other immigrants from Latin America, Asia, and Africa, and restricted entry of the Irish into the United States. Since the change, Hispanics and Asians became the dominant groups welcomed into America. Their close family members also benefited because of the U.S. government’s emphasis on family reunification.

The bill would allow skilled workers who have job offers from U.S. employers to get a two-year work visa. The E-3 visa also would allow workers to bring their spouses and children with them. The spouses also could work here legally.

Critics of the bill accuse Brown of a cynical ploy to win Irish-American votes during his re-election campaign in a state where 1 in 4 residents is of Irish descent. Both pro-immigration and anti-immigration groups say the legislation reflects longtime favoritism toward European immigrants over Hispanics and Asians.

Frank Sharry, founder and executive director of the immigrant rights group America’s Voice, told that he has no quarrel with the bill but that he resents Brown’s opposition to measures that would benefit Latinos and other immigrant groups.

Sharry cited Brown’s opposition to citizenship for nearly 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United States and the senator’s stance against the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act would allow undocumented children to gain legal status if they enrolled in college or served in the U.S. military.

“The bill is actually a modest and sensible measure, and the Irish-American community has fought very hard for immigration reform that would benefit everyone,” he said. “We consider them close friends. But I think what Scott Brown is doing smacks of shameless opportunism. He’s pandering to the Irish to say, ‘I’m your candidate,’ and he’s pandering to the tea party by showing that he’ll fight for white immigrants but not brown ones.”

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