Position of undocumented Irish in the United States highlighted again in the Dáil

Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fáil T.D. tabled a number of Parliamentary Questions again in the Dáil in relation to the difficulties facing undocumented Irish emigrants in the United States.

The Cavan/Monaghan T.D. and Fianna Fáil Party Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Trade asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he had discussions with the authorities in the United States in relation to the implementation of a waiver visa programme in respect of the undocumented Irish. He tabled a further question asking the Minister the up to date position regarding the proposed Immigration Reform Bill and if he would make a detailed statement on the matter.

 Minister Flanagan in his replies to Deputy Smith stated that –

Question No. 188

Parliamentary Question – Oireachtas To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the up-to-date position regarding the proposed Immigration Reform Bill in the United States of America; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Brendan Smith. * For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 8th October, 2015. Ref No: 35168/15

REPLY

 Achieving relief for undocumented Irish migrants in the US remains a priority for the Government in our contacts with the United States. Through our Embassy in Washington and our Consulates throughout the U.S., the Irish Government continues to work closely on this agenda with high level Government contacts and with many other individuals and groups across Irish America and beyond. The aim of these contacts is to achieve relief for undocumented Irish migrants in the US and to improve channels for legal migration between Ireland and America.

The administrative measures announced last November by President Obama, which could benefit thousands of undocumented Irish immigrants based in the US, were very welcome. However, I am conscious that these administrative measures remain under legal challenge in US Federal Courts and that in any case legislation in Congress is still needed to build on what has been promised in President Obama’s announcement. For that reason, the Government and our Embassy continue to avail of all contacts with the Administration and with Republican and Democratic political leaders to make the case for comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

To that end, in July I met in Dublin with a US congressional delegation led by John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives. The Taoiseach also met with them and we both took the opportunity to re-emphasise the Government’s wish to see comprehensive legislative reform so as to provide relief for the undocumented Irish and a legal pathway to allow for future Irish immigration to the US. Additionally, I raised immigration reform issues when I met with Vice President Biden in Boston on 30 March and I have also discussed these matters on a number of occasions recently with US Ambassador O’Malley.

Most recently, I met with the US administration, members of Congress and Irish community leaders on this issue when I visited New York and Washington DC last week. On foot of these meetings, a Bill is now in the process of being tabled by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner in the US House of Representatives. The Bill will be aimed at providing access to several thousand E3 visas for Irish citizens. I warmly welcome this positive step towards meeting the desire of many Irish people to live and work in the US for a time, but would also point out that there is work to be done in both Houses of Congress before this Bill might become law. I am also aware that while this particular measure would help with our objective of securing improved legal migration channels, it would not address the concerns of undocumented citizens currently in the US. These remain a key priority and continue to be the subject of our ongoing contacts with the US authorities. While the political climate for immigration reform in the US remains difficult, my Government will continue to actively engage with the US Administration, with Congress and with the US Embassy in Ireland.

Replies to PQ’s attached

Question No. 189

Parliamentary Question – Oireachtas To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has had discussions with the authorities in the United States of America in relation to the implementation of a Visa Waiver Programme in respect of undocumented Irish; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Brendan Smith. * For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 8th October, 2015. Ref No: 35169/15

REPLY

Achieving relief for undocumented Irish migrants in the US remains a priority for the Government in our contacts with the United States. Through our Embassy in Washington and our Consulates throughout the U.S., we continue to work closely on this agenda with high level Government contacts and with many other individuals and groups across Irish America and beyond. The aim of these contacts is to achieve relief for undocumented Irish migrants in the US and to improve channels for legal migration between Ireland and America.

We are aware of and have raised the matter of waivers for 3 and 10 year travel bans in relation to US visa applications for Irish undocumented who have overstayed their visa in the United States. At my request, the Secretary General of my Department wrote to the US Ambassador earlier this year to ask him to explore further the question of such waivers. I have also had the opportunity to directly discuss the matter with the US Ambassador. The Taoiseach also raised waivers, amongst other immigration reform issues, during his visit to Washington for St Patrick’s Day.

I must respect the confidentiality of diplomatic communications on behalf of foreign governments, but I can offer some information on the basis of these representations and responses.

The US Embassy have indicated that the waiver system is applied in strict accordance with US laws and regulations and is operated uniformly worldwide, including in Ireland. An Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility, as this is known, is an application for legal entry to the United States made by an individual who is otherwise inadmissible on one or more grounds. Such a waiver can be applied for in the case of a 3 or 10 year ban having been imposed for overstaying a visa in the US.

The US Embassy has underlined that applications are assessed individually on a case-by-case basis, with final decisions on each a matter for the US authorities in Washington, and that accordingly an applicant would not be able to predict with any degree of certainty as to whether they would be successful or not.

The Government has been assiduous in seeking to advance all viable opportunities to achieve relief for our undocumented citizens in the United States. I am therefore disappointed that our representations to the US on this matter have not resulted in a more encouraging outcome but ultimately it is a matter for the US Government and US Embassy to interpret and implement their immigration laws.

The Government as a whole, including my Department in Dublin and our Embassy in Washington, will continue to actively follow up on all opportunities to improve the situation of the Irish undocumented, and to ensure channels for legal migration between Ireland and America, with the US Administration, with Congress, and with the US Embassy in Ireland.

Most recently, I met with the US administration, members of Congress and Irish community leaders when I visited New York and Washington last week. On foot of these meetings, a Bill is now in the process of being tabled by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner on Capitol Hill. The Bill will be aimed at providing access to a specific number of E3 visas for Irish citizens.   I warmly welcome this positive step towards meeting the desire of many Irish people to live and work in the US for a time, but would also point out that there is work to be done in both houses of Congress before this Bill might become law. I am also aware that while this particular measure would, if enacted, help with our objective of securing improved legal migration channels, it would not address the concerns of undocumented citizens currently in the US. These remain a key priority and continue to be the subject of our ongoing contacts with the US authorities.

Deputy Smith stated that the position of so many Irish in the United States is a source of great concern and worry to many emigrants and indeed to their families at home. He stated that it is absolutely essential that the Government maintain the maximum pressure on the United States authorities to try and have immigration reform progressed without further delay. Brendan Smith told The Anglo-Celt that many emigrants who have not the proper visas face difficulties on a constant basis and returning home for family events in many instances can be very problematic.

 ENDS

 

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