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Biden’s empathy for emigrants may help free undocumented

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NOW IS THE TIME Louisburgh native and Irish undocumented campaigner Ciarán Staunton. Pic: Neill O'Neill

Mayo County Council must be proactive about benefits from Biden presidency – Dara Calleary

Áine Ryan

THE name may have a special place in the heart of all those who live in Ballina. Indeed, for  the majority of Irish people it is a matter of pride and a morale boost that the descendant of Irish emigrants, Joe Biden, is about to be inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States. However, for some 20,000 undocumented emigrants from his ancestral country this powerful appointment means much more.
Nobody knows this better than Irish-American campaigner and Mayo man, Ciarán Staunton, the co-founder of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform. He has welcomed President-elect Joe Biden’s plan to prioritise a major immigration reform bill which will facilitate a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants from all over the globe now  living in the US.       Speaking to Irish Central.com last week, Louisburgh native Ciarán Staunton said that Biden’s plan ‘was what the Irish community has been waiting on for decades’.
“We will obviously take nothing for granted because we have been here many times before only to suffer heartbreak. But it would be remarkable if our Irish American president was to succeed in passing legislation that would secure the future for so many Irish undocumented and indeed, all undocumented. Now is the time for all ethnic groups to pull together,” Mr Staunton said.
The legislation involves a complex process and, ironically, could be slowed down if the impeachment trial of Donald Trump proceeds in the Senate. The Democrat’s narrow majority in the upper house will prove key to the success of Biden’s planned legislation.
Last October during his presidential campaign he addressed Irish issues in a statement entitled, ‘Joe Biden, Irish-America and Ireland’.
Significantly, it stated: “I will prioritise legislation to create a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people who have been strengthening our country for years and preserve the longstanding directive of our immigration system to reunite families and enhance our diversity.”   
He specifically addressed Ireland’s undocumented, estimated to be between 15,000 and 20,000 with the statement noting his ‘empathy and understanding’ for the Irish forced to emigrate, particularly the younger Irish who had to leave after the Celtic Tiger crash.

Biden and Ballina
MEANWHILE, for Ballina Dáil Deputy Dara Calleary this inauguration of a man with such historic roots in the north Mayo capital is ‘a bright spot and a reminder of good days to come’ in the midst of these dreary times.
Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday (Monday), Dara Calleary said: “In particular it will be a very special day for the Blewitt and Bourke families whose warm and active relationship over many years with their cousin is responsible for so much good international and national profile for Ballina and Mayo in recent months.”
Continuing, he said: “When Mr Biden visited Ballina in 2016 and when he turned the sod for the new Mayo Hospice in Castlebar in 2017 he won our hearts with his warmth and humour and his time for people regardless of how much pressure he was under. So on inauguration day, I’ll be thinking of him and his family as he takes on this massive role and I’ll be offering a prayer for his success, health and safety.”
Significantly, Mr Calleary said we should not ‘assume benefits will flow from the Biden connection to Ballina and Mayo’.
“We have to make those benefits happen. Mayo County Council should establish a taskforce to identify the benefits and plan to maximise them. I will work with Mayo County Council and at national level to ensure there is a real and lasting legacy for Ballina and Mayo.”
Referring to the much-anticipated immigration legislation, Calleary added: “I will be watching this closely for a break for the undocumented Irish. I am hopeful that with President Biden in the White House and with a Democratic controlled congress that we can finally make progress.”