Thursday, 12 November 2020

Ceisteanna (232)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

232. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the need to progress immigration reform will be prioritised with the next administration in the United States of America, with particular reference to the needs of the undocumented Irish; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36115/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The issue of Irish immigration to the US, particularly the status of the undocumented Irish, has been a high priority for successive Governments and continues to be one of my key priorities. Immigration issues have been raised on an ongoing basis in our engagement with the US Administration and political leaders. I have raised immigration issues in recent contacts with Special Envoy Mick Mulvaney, with the US Ambassador, as well as with members of the US Administration and both Houses of Congress during my visit to Washington D.C. at the end of September.

In the US, our Embassy and Consulates General across the country continue to monitor the situation closely and to engage with US officials on immigration issues, including with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They also actively support Irish community groups that provide assistance and information to vulnerable Irish and the undocumented. Many of these community groups are members of the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centres, which receives significant annual funding through the Government’s Emigrant Support Programme for their work. In 2019, over €3m ($3.7m) was allocated to 88 organisations across the US, including those that provide front-line welfare assistance to Irish citizens. Furthermore, and in response to the pandemic, a dedicated COVID-19 Response Fund for Irish Communities Abroad was set up to help these organisations meet the needs of those who are particularly vulnerable.

While comprehensive immigration reform is a complex and sensitive political issue in the US at present, our Embassy and network of Consulates General will continue to monitor the situation and stand ready to engage with any Federal and State initiatives on this issue. We look forward to working with the incoming administration and the United States Congress on this issue.

In terms of securing future pathways for immigration, we continue to prioritise the E3 Visa Bill which is currently before the US Senate, having been passed in the House of Representatives. While the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted upon the congressional agenda, we hope that, when the circumstances allow, the Bill will also be passed in the Senate. We will continue to explore all available options for securing this.