O'Dowd explained how Ireland found its way onto the immigration reform agenda:
"We have strong political clout," he told me. "We're very friendly with Chuck Schumer here in New York, he's been a great supporter on this issue...We're working with John McCain who's been a friend of ours for years, as well."
In the end, that's probably the best answer.
The boom in Irish migration to the U.S. happened 150 years ago, but the long-term impact of that wave still resonates. More than 34 million Americans claim Irish ancestry, according to the Census Bureau.
Listening to the immigration debate in the Senate, discussing visas for the Irish is a rare moment when the conversation shifts from questions of the economy and "rule of law" to sentimentality.
Obviously there are Irish immigrants who have a desire to come to the U.S. legally. But it's hard to make a special case just based on desire when there are so many other people who want to come here from around the world.