Thursday, 18 April 2013

Questions (52)

Dara Calleary

Question:

52. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of meetings that officials have had with the US authorities in relation to the undocumented Irish and US emigration reform in the past 12 months; his views that these meetings are at an appropriate level and represent the maximum political pressure possible; if there is any specific effort being made to lobby Republican Party representatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18153/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Government has identified the position of the undocumented Irish in the United States and the need to provide for future flows of migration between the two countries through the E3 visa programme as important priorities in our bilateral relationship. We have engaged in an intense campaign of engagements at political and official level with the US Administration and Congress since being elected to office. This has included direct discussion of the issue at the highest level with President Obama, Vice President Biden, Speaker of the House Boehner, Secretaries of State Kerry and Clinton and the main Congressional leaders on the issue from both the Republican and Democratic Parties. The most recent round of political level engagements with these leaders occurred during the St Patrick’s Day visit to Washington by the Taoiseach and me. Prior to this, I had also discussed the issue with Senator John McCain, Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. The Embassy in Washington, led by our Ambassador, continue to implement the Government’s lobbying strategy on a daily basis, including regular meetings with Senators, Congressmen and their key staffers from both parties. This strategy is executed in very close consultation with the key Irish immigration reform organisations in the United States, including the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, the Chicago Celts, the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Coalition of Irish Emigration Centres. We have also provided significant financial support through the Emigrant Support Programme to assist several of these organisations.

I am therefore fully satisfied that the Government’s campaign is targeted, strategic and is successfully connected at the highest level within the Administration and in Congress.

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.

While immigration remains a very challenging issue in the United States, I am encouraged by the progress achieved since President Obama’s re-election and by the legislative work already significantly advanced by the bipartisan group of 8 Senators. In particular, I very much welcome the publication this week of a draft Senate Immigration Bill. I can assure the Deputy the Government will continue to prioritise this issue and will maintain its ongoing close contact with all of the key players.