Thursday, 13 November 2014

Ceisteanna (190)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

190. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the proposals he has to have early discussions or meetings with Members of Congress and members of the United States Administration on immigration reform legislation following the recent congressional elections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43690/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

This has been, and will remain, a key priority for the Government in our bilateral relationship with the United States. Through our Embassy in Washington and our Consulates throughout the U.S., we are working closely with many other individuals and groups across Irish America and beyond towards achieving some relief for undocumented Irish migrants in the United States and improved channels for legal migration between Ireland and America. During my recent visit to the US from 23 September to 1 October I had a wide range of meetings with both Irish community groups and high level government contacts on this important issue, including Vice President Joe Biden, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Congressman Joseph Kennedy.

Following the bipartisan U.S. Senate bill last year, and despite extensive combined efforts at Government, Embassy and Irish-American community levels since then, the U.S. House of Representatives has not yet taken action that would deliver relief for undocumented Irish migrants in the U.S. or an improved facility for future legal migration between Ireland and the U.S. While it appeared before the summer to be the intention of President Obama and his Administration to examine the scope for action on immigration via executive authority, President Obama announced on September 6 that he would delay any such action until after the November U.S. elections.

Since the election President Obama has underlined that he would prefer to see Congress act on a comprehensive immigration reform bill as soon as possible but reiterated his intention to act under his executive authority to address the issue before the end of the year. For their part, and confirming the political complexity that continues to attach to this matter, Republican Congressional leaders have made clear that at present they would not welcome any such executive action by President Obama on immigration.

The exact extent, nature and timing of any action that the U.S. Administration will be ready to take remains to be confirmed and there is clearly no guarantee as to the outcome that can be achieved via executive action. However, in my official contacts in Washington during my visit at the end of September I stressed the importance of addressing the needs and concerns of the undocumented Irish migrants in any such action.

There are limits to what any executive action is likely to be able to do and so further progress on the legislative track is also necessary. While there appears to be some willingness to consider further action in Congress at some future point, this is dependent on many factors and will not be easy to achieve.

I will continue to pursue further opportunities for political engagement on this matter in order to press the case for action and I know that both our Embassy and Consulates in the U.S. will also continue to work resolutely for progress over the coming period from which currently undocumented Irish migrants in the U.S. and their families can benefit.