I visited Washington D.C. over the period 17-19 June for various meetings in relation to U.S. immigration reform, which remains a key Government priority.
My programme included separate discussions with Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Congressman Paul Ryan, Senator Pat Leahy, members of the Congressional Friends of Ireland Group, House Judiciary Committee Member Congressman Mark Amodei, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Congressman Xavier Becerra and White House Domestic Policy Council Director Ms. Cecilia Munoz. I also met with Irish-American community leaders, including from the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, the Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform, Irish Apostolate USA and the Ancient Order of Hibernians, with whom the Government has worked closely on our shared U.S. immigration reform agenda.
Each of my meetings proved very useful, offering different insights and analyses into the prospects for when progress towards legislation that would provide relief for currently undocumented Irish migrants and also a facility for additional future legal migration between Ireland and the U.S. There was widespread consensus that an already complex political landscape had become even more complicated by the electoral defeat earlier in the month of the Republican House Majority Leader. The general sense which I received from interlocutors was that further time would be needed to assess the full implications of this development for ongoing immigration reform efforts, particularly from the perspective of the upcoming Congressional mid-term elections. I found it encouraging that proponents of immigration reform in Congress appear determined to persist with their efforts and they hope that further progress may yet prove possible this year.
As my visit took place, Mr. Kevin McCarthy was elected as the new Republican House Majority Leader. Through our Embassy in Washington and also directly, the Government looks forward to working further with Mr. McCarthy, House Speaker John Boehner and other key Congressional figures on both sides of the political aisle, and with the U.S. Administration, with a view to advancing Ireland’s immigration reform-related objectives.
Since my return from Washington, I understand that there has been a further sharpening of the political engagement in the U.S. Congress in relation to the situation of unaccompanied migrant children who are seeking to enter the United States via its southern border. This may now impact negatively on the prospects for wider immigration reform progress being achieved over the immediate period ahead. It would clearly be disappointing if this proves to be the case. Nevertheless, as I noted earlier, we will continue our intensive efforts to persuade members of Congress to seize every opportunity to make immigration reform a reality.