I propose to take Questions Nos. 61 and 62 together.
A resolution of the situation facing the undocumented Irish in the United States has been and remains a priority for the Government in ongoing contacts with the US Administration and Congress. The Government have also attached great importance to providing for future flows of migration between Ireland and the United States through the extension of the so called E3 visa scheme to include Irish citizens. In this context, we very much welcome the recent publication of the US Senate’s Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Bill which provides for reform of the US immigration system. The bill is progressing through the Senate system and on May 21, the Senate Judiciary Committee completed its detailed examination of proposals for comprehensive reform of the US immigration system as set out in Bill. It is expected that the Bill will now go forward for further debate by the full Senate over the coming weeks.
The comprehensive draft legislation, which was drafted over several months by a bi-partisan group of eight US Senators, includes provisions that would legalise the status of thousands of undocumented Irish people and provide a path to permanent residency. It also provides for future flows of legal migration between Ireland and the US via the proposed E-3 visa. The Bill is a very positive development. Its provisions, if adopted, would help to end the great hardship and uncertainty faced by undocumented Irish in the US and their families here in Ireland. The inclusion of a new provision to allow several thousand Irish citizens to legally avail of employment opportunities in the US every year is also particularly welcome.
It is important to recall that the overall issues involved are complex and sensitive ones within the US political system. Our Embassy in Washington continues to closely follow developments and lobby as necessary, in keeping with the approach we have adopted over many years in our pursuit of a resolution of the situation facing the undocumented in the United States. I would like to reiterate my appreciation for the active support we continue to receive from a number of Irish community organisations, including the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, the Chicago Celts and the Ancient Order of Hibernians.