Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Ceisteanna (63, 64)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

63. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to pursue with members of the administration, Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America the need to progress immigration reform with particular reference to the difficulties facing the undocumented Irish; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3423/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

64. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to progress further the proposal for Irish persons to access the United States of America E-3 Visa Programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3424/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 63 and 64 together.

I and my Government colleagues regret that it did not prove possible to secure passage of the Irish E3 Visa Bill in December, during the last term of the outgoing US Congress.

While this was disappointing news for all who care about the Ireland-US relationship, it is important to acknowledge the strong support received from many quarters on Ireland's position on securing a legal pathway for Irish citizens wishing to live and work in the US, an issue of very real importance for the continued development of the Ireland-US relationship.

I believe that the backing received from the US Administration; former Speaker Paul Ryan; the Congressional Friends of Ireland, and many others, Republican and Democrat, on this Bill, is testament to the depth and strength of our transatlantic relationship.

The Taoiseach and I have prioritised the immigration issue in the US since taking office. We will therefore continue our efforts in this regard until we secure progress – both in terms of future legal immigration opportunities for Irish citizens; and in securing a pathway for those Irish who are undocumented in order to regularise their status.

Special Envoy to the US Congress on the Undocumented, John Deasy T.D., has worked closely on these issues with Ireland's Ambassador to the US, Dan Mulhall, and his team at the Embassy in Washington DC. I know that their commitment to, and engagement on, these issues will continue undiminished.

I look forward to visiting the US in February, for a series of engagements with the US Administration and Congressional leaders on the full range of issues of mutual interest. I will raise immigration issues in these meetings, as I have done in all my interactions with the US Administration and US political leaders since taking office.

Likewise, over the St Patrick's Day period, the Taoiseach will have a range of engagements at the highest levels of the US Administration and Congress. He too will raise immigration issues, building on the work of my Department and in particular the continued engagement on this matter from our Embassy in Washington, D.C., together with Special Envoy Deasy.

I would also note that our Embassy and the Consulates in America will continue to support the Irish Immigration Centres in their work. Each Centre receives significant Government funding through the Emigrant Support Programme each year for its work, including its support for vulnerable Irish and the undocumented. In 2018, over $3,700,000 was allocated to 76 organisations across the US, including many organisations that provide frontline welfare support and services to undocumented Irish.