Parliamentary Question - Oireachtas
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to meet with the new administration in the United States of America to discuss the situation of the undocumented Irish; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien.
* For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 31st January, 2017.
Ref No: 4291/
Achieving relief for undocumented Irish migrants in the US and agreement on a facility for future migration between Ireland and the US are longstanding Government objectives. We continue to be committed to these objectives notwithstanding the immigration policy agenda of the new Administration.
The Government has raised the issue of immigration reform with US interlocutors – including at the highest levels – on many occasions. I personally raised the issue when I met then-Secretary of State John Kerry in Co. Tipperary, on 30 October 2016. I also raised it when I spoke to Speaker Paul Ryan by telephone on 23 November 2016.
The Government has also availed of every opportunity to sensitise the incoming Administration to our concerns and interests regarding immigration reform, and the plight of the undocumented Irish in particular. The Taoiseach raised the matter in his separate telephone conversations with President Trump and Vice-President Pence in the days following the Presidential election.
I am very conscious that this is a time of worry and uncertainty for our undocumented Irish citizens in the United States. This issue will therefore be high on the agenda for my visit to Washington DC later this week. In my engagements with the new US Administration and Congress, I plan to avail of all appropriate opportunities to raise the plight of the undocumented Irish citizens and to explore any viable way of providing them with some measure of reassurance and relief. Moreover, the forthcoming St. Patrick’s Day engagements will provide a further opportunity to express to senior figures in the new Administration and Congress our concerns and policy objectives in relation to the undocumented.
The Government will continue to use high-level visits to and from the US, as well as Ireland’s diplomatic representation in the United States, to advance these aims. The Embassy in Washington has worked closely with members of the US Congress - in both the House of Representatives and the US Senate, and on both sides of the aisle – to advance progress on this matter and will continue to do so. We are fortunate to be able to draw on the assistance of the Friends of Ireland in Congress and the many representatives of Irish-America, who appreciate our concerns. I will be meeting some of these senior leaders this week in Washington and will ask for their continuing support for our undocumented citizens.
In addition to these political efforts, our Embassy in Washington and our Consulates throughout the United States will continue to engage with Irish community groups in relation to their concerns. On 12 January, Ambassador Anderson convened a meeting of senior immigration stakeholders at our Embassy in Washington in order to hear directly from those who work most-closely with the undocumented Irish.
We will also continue to support organisations that deliver frontline advisory services and community care to Irish emigrants through the Emigrant Support Programme. More than 70% of the funds allocated through this programme are directed towards welfare services, including in support of the undocumented Irish in the U.S. In the last funding round for the Emigrant Support Programme, organisations in the U.S were allocated more than €2.3 million in funding.
The Government, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and our Embassy in Washington continue to work closely with Irish-American community leaders in actively pursuing all viable opportunities to advance immigration reform. We will encourage and promote any realistic possibilities for a solution that may arise.