Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Questions (82)

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

82. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the discussions held on the topic of the undocumented Irish in view of the visit of the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Mrs. Nancy Pelosi, to Dáil Éireann on 17 April 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18677/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Taoiseach and I have prioritised the issue of Irish immigration in the US since taking office. We will continue our efforts in this regard until we secure progress – both in terms of future legal immigration opportunities for Irish citizens, and also in securing a pathway for those Irish who are undocumented in order to regularise their status. Special Envoy to the US Congress on the Undocumented, John Deasy T.D., has also worked closely on these issues with my Department.

Building on this work, I visited the US in early February, for a series of engagements with the US Administration and Congressional leaders. I raised immigration issues in these meetings, as I have done in all my interactions with the US Administration and US political leaders since taking office. Additionally, the Taoiseach had a range of engagements at the highest levels of the US Administration and with Congressional leaders over the St Patrick's Day period.

I was delighted to host events to mark the visit of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and to have the opportunity to discuss with her and the Congressional delegation a range of topics of mutual concern. Special Envoy Deasy also attended the engagements with the visiting US Congressional delegation, as did officials from my Department. Through those events and also their meetings with the Taoiseach and Minister Donohoe, I believe the Speaker and delegation were fully briefed on Irish interests, including on immigration issues and our concerns for those Irish who are undocumented in the US.

These engagements have already borne fruit. I was pleased to note that an E3 Bill, which if passed, would offer new opportunities for Irish citizens to live and work in the US, was reintroduced into the US Congress on 3 April. A similar Bill introduced at the end of last year unfortunately did not pass. Much work still needs to be done for this Bill to become a reality, and we are under no illusions as to the challenging path ahead. I will report to the Oireachtas over the coming weeks on its progress.

In addition to this work, my Department, including through our Embassy and Consulates in the US, work alongside the Irish Immigration Centres across the US on an ongoing basis to provide support to those Irish who are undocumented. Each Irish Centre receives significant Government funding through the Emigrant Support Programme for its work, including support for vulnerable Irish and the undocumented. In 2018, over €3 million was allocated to 76 organisations across the US, including the Irish Centres.