The government needs to increase its engagement with the US administration to further protection for the undocumented Irish in the United States.
In my role as the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I see cases such as the arrest and threatened deportation of Cork man Keith Byrne, a married father of three, who has been living in the States for the past 12 years.
This case highlights the very real issues facing Irish people who may have overstayed their visa in the US but who have married, are raising children and have set up homes and live in the States. They are working, paying taxes and contributing to their communities but are living in fear of deportation.
Last year I led a delegation of Oireachtas members to the United States to lobby on behalf of the undocumented Irish. We met legislators and Irish advocacy groups and discussed the challenges facing many Irish people who need to have their status regularised.
Here in Ireland we recently introduced the Migrant Regularisation Scheme, which would allow certain undocumented migrants gain legal status in this country. The scheme is open to people who came to Ireland as international students between 2005 and 2010.
I believe our government should be engaging more whole-heartedly with its counterparts in the US and emphasising the benefits of the Migrant Regularisation Scheme and similar programmes here in Ireland. They should be exploring the possibility of examining a similar scheme for the undocumented Irish in the US.
The links between Ireland and the US have always been strong and our diaspora play a key role in maintaining relationships. It is vitally important that these connections are supported into the future.