Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Questions (96)

Peter Fitzpatrick


96. Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of illegal Irish immigrants in the US; if discussions have taken place with the US authorities in regard to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31130/16]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Achieving relief for undocumented Irish migrants in the US and agreement on a facility for future legal migration between Ireland and the US remain key objectives for the Government. Our Embassy in Washington and Consulates elsewhere in the US are very active in advocating for immigration reform, while the issue is also regularly addressed in high level political contacts between Ireland and the US Government.

The Taoiseach discussed the prospects for immigration reform with Vice President Biden during his visit to Ireland in July. While in Washington for St. Patrick’s Day, the Taoiseach and I met President Obama, Vice President Biden, Speaker Ryan, Senator Chuck Schumer and other key Congressional contacts from both sides of the aisle. During these meetings we emphasised the plight of the undocumented Irish in the US and encouraged both Houses of Congress to work on a bipartisan basis towards a comprehensive package of immigration reform measures.

I also availed of my visit to New York for the United Nations General Assembly last month to meet Irish community leaders in the United States, to discuss with them the prospects for achieving immigration reform and to reassure them of the Government’s commitment to the issue. In addition, Minister of State McHugh met representatives of the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers, representing a broad group of Irish centres across the United States, in New York on 20 September. That meeting was also attended by Senator Billy Lawless of Seanad Éireann.

The Government, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and our Embassy in Washington continue to work closely with Irish American community leaders in actively pursuing all viable opportunities to advance immigration reform. While there is little prospect of comprehensive reform being achieved within the lifetime of the current Congress, our Ambassador and Embassy staff are working with their contacts on both sides of the political aisle to prepare the basis for a renewed initiative once a new Administration and Congress have been established in Washington DC.