The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Minister of State with responsibility for the diaspora and international development are acutely aware of the very understandable concerns that exist among members of the Irish community in the US in light of recent developments.
The changed political landscape in the US has resulted in a renewed focus on the plight of the many millions of undocumented people living in the US, including thousands of Irish citizens. The Government remains absolutely committed to achieving relief for the undocumented Irish, as well as to facilitating greater pathways for legal migration to the United States.
With this in mind, Ireland’s diplomatic representatives in the US will continue to take every opportunity to raise the immigration issue in their contacts with the US authorities. We also work closely with Irish community organisations on this issue. Our embassy in Washington DC and our six consulates in the US are in regular contact with Irish immigration centres on a range of issues, including providing support to undocumented Irish citizens.
In this regard, the Government provides substantial funding each year through the emigrant support programme, ESP, to Irish community organisations and emigrant welfare projects in the US, and in particular to the Irish immigration centres.
Last year these projects received €1.4 million in emigrant support programme funding.
Legal advice on the implications of policy developments for undocumented Irish citizens in the US, funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, has been disseminated by immigration centres in the United States and is available online. We should not, however, underestimate the size of the challenge. This policy area has been a deeply divisive issue within the US political system for decades, with pronounced disagreement, even within the same political parties, on the best way to deal with a problem which directly affects over 11 million people.
The Government has always tried to work with both parties in a bipartisan way to address our longstanding concerns and this continues to be our approach. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade is in New York this week, where he will meet representatives of the four Irish immigration centres in the region and a representative of the US-wide Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers. The Minister will also meet a senior State Department official, and will use that opportunity to once again impress on the US administration the importance the Irish Government attaches to a resolution of the plight of the undocumented Irish.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
The Minister will also travel to Washington DC next month for high-level meetings with members of Congress. The plight of the undocumented Irish will be on the agenda for these meetings. In addition, the Taoiseach raised the issue when he spoke with President Trump by phone shortly after taking office.
The recent appointment by the Taoiseach of Deputy John Deasy as the Government’s Special Envoy to the United States Congress to work for the undocumented Irish was an important statement of our intent and seriousness on this issue. Deputy Deasy has made two substantive visits since his appointment - one at the end of July and the other at the beginning of September. In Washington DC, he met senior political contacts from both sides of the aisle and has engaged with Irish community and political representatives in New York and Boston. He remains in continuing contact with the embassy in Washington and with officials of the Departments of the Taoiseach and of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
In light of all this activity, I can, therefore, assure the Deputy of the Government’s continued commitment to pursuing these matters on behalf of our affected citizens in the US.