Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Questions (153)

James Bannon


153. Deputy James Bannon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will raise the issue of the undocumented Irish in the US when he meets with the US President over St. Patrick’s weekend; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10273/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The welfare of the Irish abroad in general and especially the position of undocumented Irish immigrants in the United States remains an important priority for the Government. A resolution of the situation for undocumented Irish migrants will continue to be an important priority for the Government in our ongoing contacts with the US Administration and Congress. This issue will remain a central feature of the Government’s engagement with the US authorities over the St. Patrick’s Day period, and my programme and that of other members of the Government, while not yet finalised, will include meetings with key political figures and the Irish community groups that provide assistance to the undocumented.

The advice of Ireland’s friends and contacts within the US Administration and Congress has long been that comprehensive reform of the US immigration system and procedures is likely to be the only manner by which such a resolution can be achieved. The prospects for such reform have advanced in the wake of President Obama’s re-election. The emphasis he placed on immigration reform in his inauguration address as well as in subsequent speeches, including the State of the Union address, sent a very positive signal in this regard. The indications of emerging bipartisan support for reform in Congress is also encouraging. Much further debate and discussion is likely to be required within the US political system before the shape of any legislative deal is clear. It is therefore not possible at this stage to identify an exact timescale in which these may become clear but the area will continue to receive the Government’s close attention over the period ahead.

To reinforce the Irish government’s interest in the issue I am currently undertaking a round of contacts with key Senators. Most recently, I spoke with Senator John McCain to express the Government’s appreciation for the efforts he and others are making in developing bi-partisan Senate proposals and to underline our ongoing interest in the issue, and with Senator Pat Leahy who is chair of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate. I look forward to continuing my contacts with other Senators in the coming weeks