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NYC Irish immigrants hope for work visas in immigration bill

The recent unveiling of the Senate bill for comprehensive immigration reform has people throughout New York City hoping that real change may be on the way, but immigrants also have a healthy degree of skepticism about whether the proposal will actually be signed into law.

The five boroughs are home to immigrants from nations across the globe. People from Ireland, for instance, have historically played a major role in the city's construction industry. Now Irish and Latin American immigrants are hoping together that the Senate bill makes headway, in large part because the bill would provide thousands of temporary work visas for laborers in the construction industry.

Irish immigrants have been arriving in the United States for more than 200 years, and now the Irish community offers a strong support network for those who come here and decide to stay. The Bronx's Gaelic Park is an iconic structure for Irish people in New York City, and one footballer at the park estimated that roughly 99 percent of the players were in the country without legal documentation.

That man is like many Irish immigrants who come to the U.S.: he found work on construction sites and hopes to climb his way up and make a good living. He says that playing Gaelic football is a way to network and find jobs.

An Irish construction company owner expressed dismay at how difficult it is for new immigrants to achieve legal permanent residency and citizenship. He said that when he came to the U.S. in the 1980s, it was easier to establish oneself. He hopes the Senate bill passes into law and that immigrants can come "out of the shadows."

Still, those hopes are tempered by the fact that immigration reform bills have been proposed in the past and failed. For now, New Yorkers will just have to wait, perhaps take some civic or legal action, and see what lawmakers decide.

Source: The World, "How Irish Immigrants in New York City See Immigration Reform," Ines Novacic, April 17, 2013

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