To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he raised the issue of the undocumented Irish during his recent visit to Washington; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien.
As I made clear in my statement of 29 January, 2017, concerning the Executive Order signed by President Trump on 27 January last, while US immigration policy is a matter for the US authorities, it is clear that this decision could have far-reaching implications – both on humanitarian grounds and on relations between the US and the global Muslim community. Accordingly, I share the concerns expressed by other EU partners regarding this development.
I have noted the clarification issued by the Embassy of the United States in Dublin on 31 January, 2017, to the effect that the Executive Order in question does not restrict the travel of dual nationals to the United States, so long as they hold the passport of an unrestricted country and possess a valid US visa, if required. The US courts have since intervened and imposed a suspension on the implementation of the Executive Order.
Both the Executive Order of 27 January and the question of immigration reform in the United States were high on the agenda for my visit to Washington DC from 31 January to 2 February last. I had a number of engagements with the Administration and Congressional leaders, including the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, the House majority leader and the House minority leader, among others.
In my meetings with Congressional leaders, as well as with the – now former - US National Security Advisor, General Flynn, I expressed Ireland’s deep concerns with regard to the nature and impact of the Executive Order of 27 January. In response, General Flynn outlined to me the rationale - in terms of US immigration policy - for these temporary measures, while I pointed out their damaging consequences in humanitarian terms, as well as for the international reputation of the United States.
Achieving relief for the undocumented Irish citizens in the United States and securing greater legal pathways for migration to the United States remain key objectives for the Government. These priorities featured in all of my meetings in Washington, DC – including with General Flynn, with Speaker Ryan and with other Congressional leaders.
Both the Administration and members of Congress are fully aware of the importance of this issue for Ireland and appreciate our strong and continuing interest in securing immigration reform. The Taoiseach’s forthcoming visit to Washington, DC, for St. Patrick’s Day will provide a key opportunity to raise the issue of immigration reform – especially the plight of our undocumented – directly with the US Administration as the highest levels.
During my visit, I also met with members of the Irish community in Washington, DC and re-assured them of the Government’s commitment to immigration reform. I emphasised that, while the political context in Washington may have changed, the Government’s objectives remain constant: relief for the undocumented and finding greater pathways for legal migration to the United States. I noted that we can only advance these objectives if we engage and articulate our views with the key decision makers in the Administration and Congress.
In addition to these contacts at political level, the Embassy in Washington and our Consulates across the United States continue to work with Irish immigration centres on a daily basis in providing support to Irish citizens in the United States.
Our Ambassador to the United States, Anne Anderson, held a workshop with key immigration stake-holders, in the Irish community, from across the United States at the Embassy on 12 January last. The Government and my Department are committed to providing practical support to undocumented Irish citizens in the US, while also continuing to advocate for immigration reform.