A look at the predicament facing Irish immigrants working illegally in the United States of America.

An estimated 130,000 young Irish men and women are living and working illegally in the United States.

These immigrants are attracted by the prospect of adventure and money. However, since the signing into law of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, prospects have dramatically changed for those working illegally in America. Employers are now being fined $10,000 for hiring people without the requisite paperwork, and as a result, a large number of Irish people are losing their jobs.

Highly qualified graduates now have no option but to work on building sites or as babysitters or hotel maids. Many are sleeping on floors, often with seven or eight sleeping between two rooms.

One woman who came to the USA in 1985, worked her way up to become a loans administrator in a bank. But when the emigration laws changed she had to quit her job and is now scrubbing floors.

Three men interviewed are working in a restaurant clearing tables and washing glasses. The only way they can make money is by working long hours, seven days a week.

Two other men with a university education cannot work legally so are working on a building site and doing painting and decorating. Another graduate who is sending money home to pay off a loan says,

I think that I would get a good job, if I was legal.

A University College Cork graduate with a degree in political science is working as a labourer in Manhattan, but his terms of employment are precarious. With such a close-knit Irish-American community in New York, he is finding it hard to come to terms with the fact he is illegal.

If I was here legally, I could do very well here, but because I'm illegal I have basically no future.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 2 November 1987. The reporter is Gerry Reynolds.