The issue of Irish immigration to the US, particularly the status of the undocumented Irish, has been a high priority for successive Governments and continues to be one of my key priorities. Immigration issues have been raised on an ongoing basis in our engagement with the US Administration and political leaders. I have raised these issues in recent contacts with Special Envoy Mick Mulvaney and with the US Ambassador, as well as with members of the US Administration and both Houses of Congress during my visit to Washington D.C. at the end of September.
In the US, our Embassy and Consulates General across the country continue to monitor the situation closely and to engage with US officials on immigration issues, including with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They also actively support Irish community groups that provide assistance and information to vulnerable Irish and the undocumented. Many of these community groups are members of the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers, which receives significant annual funding through the Government’s Emigrant Support Programme for their work. In 2019, over €3m ($3.7m) was allocated to 88 organisations across the US, including those that provide front-line welfare assistance to Irish citizens. Furthermore, and in response to the pandemic, a dedicated COVID-19 Response Fund for Irish Communities Abroad was set up to help these organisations meet the needs of those who are particularly vulnerable.
We maintain close relations with members of Congress and contacts from across the political spectrum, and will continue to seek opportunities to deepen and strengthen our bilateral relations with the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden. The President-elect has always been a stalwart friend and supporter of Ireland and we are looking forward to working closely with him and his Administration , as reaffirmed by the Taoiseach during their recent telephone phone call. Post-pandemic, we want to see people-to-people links strengthened and we look forward to working with the new administration, as well as with the United States Congress, across the aisle, to pursue comprehensive immigration reform in the US. Our Embassy and network of Consulates General will continue to monitor the situation and stand ready to engage with any Federal and State initiatives on this issue.
In terms of securing future pathways for immigration, we continue to prioritise the E3 Visa Bill which is currently before the US Senate, having been passed in the House of Representatives. The bill was reintroduced in the House of Representatives by Congressmen Neal and Sensenbrenner in May 2019. If passed, this could allow access to thousands of US visas each year to Irish citizens, providing new opportunities to live and work in the US. While the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted upon the congressional agenda, we hope that, when the circumstances allow, the Bill will also be passed in the Senate. We will continue to explore all available options for securing this.