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Irish Immigration: Many Young Adults Moving to San Francisco

Irish Immigration is on the rise.St. Patrick’s Day may hold even more importance in the San Francisco Bay Area these days as many of Ireland’s young adults flock to the region.  Right now, there is an upward trend of young Irish adults moving to the U.S. – the Bay Area in particular.  This comes after an initial wave in the 1960s followed by the same in the 1980s.

Many Irish people are emigrating to the area after friends or relatives did the same previously.  This way, they move to a region and have a sort of “home base.”  But why is this trend increasing now?

The Irish economy, just as we are experiencing in the United States, is in dire straits.  The banking collapse in 2008 took its toll on Ireland and has caused many to relocate in the hope of a better life.  In November 2010, Ireland was part of the $93 billion bailout and in turn promised four years of lower minimum wage, higher taxes, and reduced public spending.  This didn’t sit right with many Irish and many simply couldn’t afford it.

The country is plagued by double-digit unemployment rates, a housing crisis, and no job creation.  So as a result, many are moving to America to follow the “American Dream” which we’ve all heard about so many times.  Upon arrival, many Irish immigrants have found work with technology companies but must move back to Ireland until their visas are approved.

Things may start to change in Ireland over the course of the next few months, however.  The Fianna Fail Party, which has been in power since 1932, recently lost control of the lower house.  This means that the Fine Gael and Labor parties may form a governing coalition and may attempt to renegotiate the bailout terms to improve conditions for the Irish people.  These changes may keep many young Irish adults from moving away.

While we are seeing a boom in Irish immigrants these days, this type of relocation has occurred throughout history.  This is especially true beginning in the early 19th century when the potato famine hit – more than a million Irish immigrants relocated to the United States.  Of course, we had an influx in the 1960s and 1980s but by the 1990s, it slowed down because Ireland’s economy was booming.

It is interesting to note that while we are seeing a little explosion of Irish immigrants landing in the San Francisco Bay Area, it isn’t nearly as much as it could be.  There are actually really tough visa requirements, so many of the 100,000 Irish expected to leave in the next two years may end up moving to Australia or even Canada.  In fact, those nations have more available jobs than the U.S. right now.

The loophole exists when some Irish come to the United States on a 90-day tourist visa and then stay on to work.  Essentially, they have relocated to the country illegally.  There are an estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish living and working in the United States right now – about 5,000 of them are in the San Francisco Bay Area.

– Lance Grooms

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