Finding a solution for our undocumented citizens in the United States remains an important priority for this Government. The Government is also committed to working with our friends in Congress to enhance Ireland's bilateral visa arrangements with the US through the establishment of a two-year renewable E-3 visa facility.
I am very much aware of the difficulties confronting undocumented Irish citizens in the United States and the distress which both they and their families in the United States and Ireland experience arising from their position. I urge anybody who might be tempted to follow in the footsteps of the undocumented to take account of their plight. My Department and the embassy in Washington DC, in particular, has continued to work proactively on the issue with the US Administration, which is what was asked in the question. It also worked with congressional leaders and Irish immigration reform advocates, which I met in September. These groups included the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, ILIR.
We have been encouraged by President Obama's continued commitment to resolving this issue, and it is a view he shared when the Taoiseach and I met him in Washington in March. President Obama has since reiterated that commitment on a number of occasions. Earlier this year, President Obama welcomed what he described as the strong outline proposal for reform presented at the end of April by senior Democratic Senators Harry Reid, Charles Schumer and Robert Menendez.
Following active engagement with our friends in Congress, this proposal included provision for a path towards the regularisation of the status of the undocumented, including the Irish. It also specifically contained provision for an E-3 visa arrangement for Irish citizens which was subsequently included in an immigration reform bill introduced by Senator Menendez. Although this was only the first step in a lengthy legislative process, it represented an important achievement for the Government and the Irish community. However, the outcome of the congressional elections on 2 November presents significant new political challenges for immigration reform legislation. Given that the outgoing Congress will continue in place until January, it will be some time before new committees are established and the long-term prospects for reform are clearer.
The Government will continue to maintain very close contact with the US Administration and Congress, as well as with Irish community advocates, to address this issue in the period ahead. Since 2006 the Government has provided a total support of $325,000 to the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform and in September of this year, I met with the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centres and the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform to discuss the prospects for reform. The Senate Majority Leader, Senator Harry Reid, last evening announced that he will introduce the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, DREAM, Act as a stand-alone bill after the Thanksgiving recess.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House.
Although many advocates are optimistic about the prospects for passing DREAM, friends on the Hill indicate there is currently no concrete evidence of renewed bipartisan support for the bill, or that some Democratic senators who have not supported DREAM in the past will vote for it on the next occasion. Over the next two weeks it will be possible to better determine the level of support for DREAM now that it has become once again a concrete proposal. It will also be possible to better judge, after discussing further with our friends on the Hill, the prospects for other immigration measures such the E-3 type visa for Ireland.
Senior officials of my Department had talks in Washington as recently as last Monday on the issue of Irish immigration to the US. They discussed the issue of the undocumented, the conditions in which Irish citizens are held prior to deportation, the operation of the existing working holiday visa programmes and possibilities for the political agreement on the immigration issues following the 2 November elections in the US.