Statement on the Irish E3 Bill

Since our inception the AOH has been active in working to improve the lives of Irish immigrants. Now celebrating our 175th year, we continue to live up to the preamble of the AOH Constitution which requires that we encourage an equitable U.S. Immigration law for Ireland, and to cooperate with all groups for a fair American Immigration Policy.

In the 1960‘s, AOH members participated in an effort to prevent removal of the quota of Irish visas by the Immigration Act of 1965. Those concerns were proven as successive economic downturns have left many of the Irish without the option to emigrate legally to the US. In the last 25 years, AOH has worked with the Irish Immigration Reform Movement, Irish Lobby For Immigration Reform, as well as many other organizations and  government officials from the two nations, and elsewhere, to rectify the quota and restore the important cultural exchange between Ireland and the US.

Current events and developments prove our understanding of the need to work with others to meet this goal. One of the great developments of the recent weeks was a video conference  and one week later a teleconference facilitated by the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers and the Irish Embassy. In cities across the US, Irish immigration advocates, in many cases seeing and speaking live to each other for the first time, shared ideas on the recent moves by Congress. AOH, ILIR and Rep. Bruce Morrison, Boston Irish and Chicago Celts and several other advocacy groups outlined recent work towards an Irish E3 and concerns for the undocumented. We look forward to working with all of the groups towards a successful outcome.

The second and more immediate development is the introduction of two bills that propose an Irish E3. The first bill was proposed by Senators Schumer, Leahy and Durbin and it was quickly followed by the Irish Immigration and Encouragement Act sponsored by Republican Senators Brown (MA) and Kirk (IL). While neither bill solves the undocumented issue, they do address future flow from Ireland. The bills would modify the E3 visa, currently available to only Australia and a few select countries. The modifications would recognize Irelands excellent education system and allows Irish Nationals with a “leaving cert” or two years experience in a trade to apply for 10,500 two year renewable visas. We are grateful to the sponsors of both of these bills for their recognition of the longstanding inequities relating to immigration from Ireland.

Right now, AOH members across the US are meeting and reaching out to their US Representatives and Senators as part of the initiative to secure “The Irish E3 Visa.” The AOH maintains that Ireland has been extremely supportive to US Homeland Security and Defense with the Shannon Stopover of US Troops coming and going from the War On Terror and the innovations of US Customs and Immigration at Ireland’s Shannon and Dublin Airports. We are asking Congress to thank Ireland with an E3 as it had Australia in 2005. In this way, with 10,500 annual renewable visas, a secure and legal path to immigration will be restored, preventing the need for Irish people to seek less desirable methods to escape the current economic hardships in Ireland and strengthen the bond between our two nations.

Seamus Boyle AOH National President & Dan Dennehy AOH Immigration Chairman

Diplomatic Meeting

Members of the AOH National Board and guests pose for picture with the Irish Ambassador after a luncheon he hosted in Washington at his residence. Pictured (L – R) Dan O’Connell Sr., Sean Pender, Jere Cole, Tom Brady, Brendan Moore, Seamus Boyle, Ambassador Michael Collins, Jim McKay, Ned McGinley, Dan Dennehy, Danny O’Connell, Joe Roach, Keith Carney.

Members of the National Board recently attended a luncheon at the invitation of the Irish Ambassador to the United States, Michael Collins. The luncheon was held at his residence not far from the Irish Embassy in Washington, DC.  The residence of the Ambassador of Ireland was built in 1924 and is historically named the Frederic Delano House after its original owner. Frederic Delano was a member of the Federal Reserve Board and uncle of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  The Irish Government purchased the house in 1965.

The AOH was represented by 10 members of the Board including Executive Board Members Seamus Boyle, Brendan Moore and Jim McKay. Jim McKay also serves as Honorary Consul in New Orleans for the Irish Government. In additional two other AOH members attended as guests.  The Ambassador was joined by his Diplomatic staff members Mr. Myles Geiran, First Secretary and Press and Information Officer and Mr. Adrian McDaid, Political Counselor.

Making note that the AOH is the largest Irish Catholic organization in the United States and that our membership reaches every community around the country, the Ambassador was intent on furthering the relationship with our organization and finding ways in which we can help each other further common goals. The luncheon fostered significant discussion on such important topics as immigration policy, the undocumented and community support for Irish immigrants.  In addition we discussed how the AOH and its members can help Ireland in the current economic climate through tourism, business opportunities for American companies, and enticing higher education opportunities now being promoted to the Irish Diaspora in the U.S.

Also a topic of conversation was the Ambassador’s suggestion that the AOH play leading roles in future historic commemorations such as the upcoming 1916 Anniversary. The Ambassador was measuring our strength and demographics in age and other areas. Upon learning of our focus on youthful recruitment he suggested that we associate with the Irish Networks starting up in major metropolitan areas in the U.S. and sponsored in part by the Irish Government.

The luncheon provided an open and candid dialog and showed that a fine relationship continues to develop between the AOH and the Irish Foreign Affairs Department. This is true not only at the Irish Embassy in Washington, DC but at Irish Consulates throughout the U.S.

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Joe Byrne and the Ancient Order of Hibernians

Joe Byrne arriving at JFK airport. (L to R) Congressman Eliot Engel, Eileen Byrne, Joe Byrne, Matt Reilly (member of the Fort Worth Five), Moira Reilly and Mairead Byrne is out in front.

The Ancient Order of Hibernians was formed in New York City in 1836 for many reasons, one in particular was to protect young Irish men who had recently immigrated.  While Joe Byrne was not considered by many to be “new” to America, his unjust arrest was enough for all who belonged to the AOH/LAOH to stand up and fight for him.

Early Friday morning, on July 28th, 2006, Joe and his family were met by 20 Armed U.S. Marshals at their home.  Joe’s daughter, Mairead, then three years-old, was the first to see these men.  Joe was arrested and brought to Valhalla, were he was locked up until his release on Friday, September 8th, 2006.  On that Friday morning, no one knew why Joe had been arrested.  The U.S. Marshals told his wife, Eileen, that Joe would be brought before a judge in White Plains at 10:00am.  It was there that they learned that Ireland had asked the United States Government to honor an extradition request of one Joseph Simon Byrne.

In 1996 and early 1997, in Dundalk, County Louth, Joe had been picked up for questioning regarding a robbery. Joe answered the Gardai’s questions and was released on his own recognizance.  Later in 1997, Joe went back to Gardai Station and informed them he planned on moving to America.  “Any problems?” he asked, “none” replied the Gardai.  In 2001, Joe had settled in Pearl River with his future wife when he needed to renew his Irish passport.  This was done in the Irish Embassy and his passport was mailed back to his home in Pearl River.  In 2004, Joe applied for his Green Card.  He reported on his application that he had been questioned in Dundalk Gardai Station about the robberies.  When INS asked the Irish Government about Joe’s reputation, he was issued a Certificate of Good Standing from Ireland.  Joe’s Green Card had also been sent to his address in Pearl River.

Sometime in 2005, the Irish Government issued an extradition order for Joe.  No one knows why it took the U.S. Marshals over a year to find Joe, but I will always remember a quote in the local Journal News on Saturday, July 29th – “You can run, but you can’t hide.”  I have since forgotten the name of that US Marshal, but clearly, Joe was not hiding in Pearl River.  He could be found on just about any job site, in Hibernian House, at a Division 3 meeting, Shop Rite, marching on the avenue for Rockland’s annual Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, etc…  He was truly out and about in town.

I received the first of many calls regarding Joe’s situation around 6:15am that awful Friday morning.  I immediately started making phone calls to members of AOH/LAOH Division 3 and one person actually went and woke up our local Town Councilman.  Throughout the course of the day, as the bad news travelled, I received phone calls from many AOH/LAOH members, asking what they could do to help.  I remember thinking then – if the number of phone calls was enough, Joe would be home by midnight.  Of course, it didn’t happen that way, but no member of the AOH/LAOH walked away from Joe, his family or Division 3.  As each call was answered, they were all told the same thing, reach out to your politicians and ask them to join New York State Congressman Eliot Engel in helping get Joe out of jail.

From July 2006 till February 20th, 2008, I always knew that Joe and his family could count on the AOH/LAOH to help try and put a stop to his extradition.  But on that fateful day of February 20th, 2008, word came down that then Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, had signed Ireland’s request for Joe’s extradition.  On February 29th, 2008, Joe arrived back in Dundalk, County Louth.

While Joe’s fight shifted from America to Ireland, the AOH/LAOH in America never forgot about Joe and from the e-mails I received over the past 29 months, all of you kept the faith that Joe would one day come back to America.  From New York to California, Wisconsin to Texas, Maine to Arizona, Florida to Washington and everywhere in between, all of you never forgot about Joe and the injustice that was done to him and his family.  You all had one goal in mind – to reunite Joe with his family, right here in the United States of America.   One of my last e-mails to all in 2008 stated:  “While we came up short on the extradition, we know that the nobility of the Irish character is to be never broken by temporary defeat but to come back stronger and more determined than ever. “

Oh, how true those words are!  And I am proud to say that with Joe’s return to the United States on Tuesday, July 27th, 2010 (one day short of a four year nightmare), it was due in part to Congressman Eliot Engel and his belief in Joe’s innocence and every member of the AOH/LAOH.  We proved that we will never let the nobility of the Irish character be broken and we will always come back stronger and more determined than ever.  God Bless the AOH/LAOH.  I am extremely proud and humbled to be a part of this organization.  United We Stand, Divided We Fall!  Good Luck, God Bless and God Speed to one and all!  Thanks for an awesome job!

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