Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Ceisteanna (39)

Niall Collins


39. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the recent efforts made to address the issue of the undocumented in the United States of America; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21124/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Government has consistently pursued two key objectives with regard to supporting Irish communities in the United States: increased pathways for legal migration by Irish citizens to the US and relief for the plight of undocumented Irish citizens living in the US.

In that regard, the Taoiseach discussed the issue with President Trump in the Oval Office on March 15 last and also in his meetings on Capitol Hill during this year’s St. Patrick’s Day visit.

In addition to the exchanges over the St. Patrick’s Day period, I had previously raised the issue with then-Secretary of State Tillerson when I visited Washington DC in February, and with senior Congressional figures. The Government’s Special Envoy to the United States Congress on the Undocumented, Deputy John Deasy, has also been very active on the issue.

In addition, our Embassy in Washington DC is engaged with the Administration and with contacts on Capitol Hill on an ongoing basis. The Embassy, as well as our six Consulates across the United States, work very closely with Irish immigration centers who support the needs of Irish citizens in the United States. In this regard, our Ambassador in Washington will hold a further regular meeting with representatives of the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers at the Embassy in Washington, DC, next week.

Through these many high-level contacts and discussions, the Government has been exploring a number of different options, including the possibility of a reciprocal agreement covering the undocumented Irish in the US, on the one hand, and US citizens looking to move to Ireland, on the other.

However, this remains a very challenging issue and I do not want to raise expectations unduly. Immigration reform has been a sensitive and indeed 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 an issue which directly affects over 11 million people.

In that context, finding a solution for the thousands of undocumented Irish in the US remains a difficult task.

That said, I can assure the House that the Government, its Special Envoy and our Embassy in Washington DC are continuing to give top priority to this issue, mindful of its importance to the thousands of undocumented and to their families in Ireland, and that we will spare no effort in seeking a solution.