Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Questions (367)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

367. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the efforts he and his Department are making with the new US administration to improve the situation for undocumented Irish immigrants in the United States of America; if he is hopeful of positive developments under the Biden administration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6818/21]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Strengthening bilateral relations with the US is a priority for Ireland as set out in our Programme for Government, as well in our Strategy for the US and Canada (2019-2025). We continue to 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 Biden Administration.

In particular, 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. We are pleased to see that immigration issues, including regarding pathways to citizenship, are a priority for the new US President, as demonstrated by the proposed US Citizenship Act of 2021. We will actively engage with the new Administration and Congress on this particular initiative, including through our Embassy in Washington, DC.

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 US Administrations and political leaders. I have raised these issues in contacts with members of the previous US Administration and both Houses of Congress, including during my visit to Washington D.C. at the end of September last year.

Our Embassy in Washington D.C., as well as the Consulates across the US, work closely with Irish Immigration Centres, which support the needs of Irish citizens. The Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers receives significant annual funding through the Government’s Emigrant Support Programme. 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.

In terms of securing future pathways for immigration, we will continue to pursue the E3 Visa Bill option. 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. Now that the new Administration and new Congress are in place, we will seek the reintroduction of the Bill at the earliest opportunity.