Unlike other kinds of law where an attorney’s job might be to argue that her client did nothing wrong, a lot of immigration law begins with an admission of guilt. We concede that our clients entered the country illegally, or stayed longer than they were supposed to, or lied to the government about their marital status, or whatever else. Different circumstances call for different forms of legal relief, but a central feature in many of our cases is that our client did wrong and now he’s terribly sorry. Confession and penance are akin to sacraments in immigration law, and the process of asking the government to pardon your client’s digressions is a disconcerting combination of formulaic and theatrical.
Today it is no longer easy to define precisely what is meant by an Irish American ethnic identity. This is especially so for later generations. Intermarriage has played a major role in this blurring of ethnic lines. The process of assimilating has also been facilitated by the great migration in recent decades of the Irish from their ethnic enclaves in the cities to the suburbs and rural regions. Greater participation in the multicultural public school system with a corresponding decline in parochial school attendance has played a significant role as well; another major factor has been the great decrease of immigrants from Ireland due to immigration laws disfavoring Europeans. Today, with 38,760,000 Americans claiming Irish ancestry (according to the 1990 census), American society as a whole associates few connotations—positive or negative—with this group. Among these immigrants and their ancestors, however, there is still great pride and a certain prestige in being Irish.