Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Questions (393)

Denis Naughten

Question:

393. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made to date on resolving the issue of undocumented Irish in the US; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1410/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

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 contacts with the US Ambassador, as well as with members of the US Administration and both Houses of Congress, most recently during my visit to Washington D.C. at the end of September last year.

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 receive significant annual funding through the Government’s Emigrant Support Programme (ESP). In 2019, over €3m was allocated to 88 organisations across the US, including those that provide front-line welfare assistance to Irish citizens. Furthermore, 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. In 2020, over €3.6m was paid to diaspora organisations in the US for ESP and Covid related projects.

We look forward to working closely with President-elect Joe Biden and the incoming 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. 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. We will continue to explore all available options for securing this.