Online Staff Report
CHICAGO — Chicago restaurateur and Irish immigrant Billy Lawless will introduce President Barack Obama today (Tuesday, Nov. 25) during his speech in Chicago to discuss executive action on immigration. President Obama’s visit Tuesday to the Copernicus Community Center comes four days after issuing his executive order that would shield about 4 million parents of U.S. citizen children or legal permanent residents from deportations.
“I was absolutely stunned when they called me,” Lawless said. “I feel that it is the work of all the advocacy groups here in Chicago that has really brought this about.”
A veteran of immigrant justice and a successful businessman, Lawless immigrated to Chicago from Galway Ireland in 1998 with his wife, Anne, and family. Starting out with 10 employees in an Irish-themed pub in Wrigleyville, Lawless now owns three successful restaurants in Chicago — Gage, Acanto and Dawson — employing more than 260 people.
“This is what we immigrants do,” said Lawless. “We work hard, we contribute, we create jobs — especially our undocumented immigrants. The restaurant and hospitality industry simply would not survive without our hardworking undocumented workers. They are the backbone of our industry, and they do back-breaking work that Americans simply do not want to do.”
A co-founder of Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform and the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, vice president of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and Executive Committee member of the Illinois Restaurant Association, Lawless is a national leader on immigration reform. Lawless travels every year to Washington, D.C., to speak with legislators. Last year, Lawless accompanied President of Ireland Michael Higgins to speak with House Speaker John Boehner and members of Congress. Lawless is a frequent news commentator and has published opinion pieces in Crain’s Chicago Business and was profiled by Mark Brown of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Lawless has rallied for immigration reform with former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, Francis Cardinal George, Illinois Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner, former Gov. Jim Edgar, Congressman Luis Gutierrez and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin. July 10, Lawless and wife Anne became U.S. citizens and voted in November for the first time in the United States.
“Thanks to President Barack Obama’s bold, smart and compassionate executive order, millions of immigrants — not just Latinos — but the Irish, Polish, Ukrainians and Asians are safe and can stay with their families,” said Lawless.
Posted Nov. 25, 2014