by Niall O’Dowd, Publisher, IrishCentral
Joe Biden threw down a challenge to Irish Americans to come in behind the Hispanic lobby and seek immigration reform because of the shared history of discrimination against the two groups.
Speaking in New York on Thursday at the Irish America Hall of Fame hosted by our sister publication Irish America magazine, Biden challenged Irish Americans to remember their own pasts and to use that knowledge to fight discrimination today.
He quoted from a rabidly anti-Irish editorial from 1892 in The New York Times depicting the Irish as drunks and thieves. He also stated that the Ku Klux Klan was founded to smear Irish Catholics as well as blacks.
He stated that that type of hatred was still alive in anti immigrant sentiment against Hispanics and others today and that the Irish needed to help combat it.
“There are 11 million [undocumented] Hispanics, who by the way, are just as proud, just as noble, care just as much about their families as we do,” Biden said. “Like our forbears, they possess overwhelming potential to build this great country. But today we are facing the most existential moment and we must ask ourselves: What do we stand for? What kind of nation are we? And perhaps most importantly, what kind of nation are we going to be become?”
Nominating speech for Joe Biden for Irish America Hall of Fame
Biden recalled Irish leader Enda Kenny pointing out over St.Patrick’s Day that Ireland had 50,000 undocumented today and had said to him, “Mr. Vice President imagine not being able to come home for your mother’s funeral and knowing you’ll never be able to come back,” Biden recalled. “It’s not just the Irish. That’s a circumstance—not only for Irish undocumented—but Latinos, Asians and others.”
Joe Biden s said the 50,000 undocumented Irish should to be brought “out of the shadows,” and they and other “undocumented” in the US “should be entitled to earn a path to citizenship.”
“They are Americans but they are not citizens – they are undocumented. We need to find a fair and effective and decent way to take them out of the shadows,” Biden said.
The system was broken, he said, and “needs to be fixed.”
Biden’s speech to an audience of 300 Irish American leaders was a direct challenge to them to get involved in the issue. As such it was a very brave clarion call by a leading Irish American who did not fear to push his own ethnic group to do more on the controversial issue.
He also stated that U.S. immigration policy was truly lacking when it allowed 40,000 PHD’s a year to leave the country after graduation. “Maybe one of those PHD’s could find a cure for Alzheimers” he stated.
Much of his speech was devoted to his Irish background and how intensely proud of that heritage he was.
He remembered his mother telling him never to feel he was not equal to everyone else and spending long hours with him teaching him Yeats poems to recite as he fought a stuttering problem.
On a lighter note, Biden, told what inauguration in the Hall of Fame meant to him.
“I would never dream that I would be in this position,” Biden said. “I’m not surprised that I am vice president, but I am surprised that I am in the Irish Hall of Fame.”
Tags: immigration, Irish America, Joe Biden, Niall O'Dowd