Parliamentary Question on Undocumented Irish in Dáil Éireann

Parliamentary Question – Oireachtas:
To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the progress made to date on resolving the issue of undocumented Irish in the US; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Denis Naughten.
For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 28th May, 2014.
Ref No: 23127/14

                                                                                                                            Question No. 20

Parliamentary Question – Oireachtas
To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the contacts that he has had with key players on Capitol Hill in the US regarding the possible passage of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Denis Naughten.
For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 28th May, 2014.
Ref No: 23128/14


I propose to take question 13 and 20 together.

As noted in my previous reply, this is an issue to which I accord very high priority.    I am conscious of the difficulties experienced by Irish citizens who are undocumented in the United States, and have met and spoken with many of them during my working visit to the United State, and also with the various groups who lobby on their behalf.

Immigration reform and the challenges faced by our undocumented remain central to our bilateral engagement with the United States. 

I have raised the issue consistently in meetings, telephone calls and written correspondence with senior US political contacts.   I have instructed Ambassador Anderson and her team, working with the Irish – American lobby groups who have already put in such a great effort, to continue their lobbying of members of Congress to seize every opportunity to make immigration reform a reality.    

The issue was also discussed extensively during the Taoiseach’s St Patrick’s Day visit to Washington DC in March.  In addition to substantive discussion of the issues with President Obama and Vice President Biden, the Taoiseach also discussed the prospects for progress with a range of other members of Congress including Speaker John Boehner; Congressman Bob Goodlatte, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee which has responsibility for immigration legislation in the House; Congressman Paul Ryan;  the Congressional Friends of Ireland;  and Senator Patrick Leahy,  the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that oversaw the passage of the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill last June.  The Taoiseach called in the strongest possible terms for Congress to show leadership and deal with the immigration issue now.   

While we have been encouraged by feedback from both Democrats and Republicans indicating that there is now a growing momentum for reform, it remains difficult to assess exactly when and how this might occur, not least in view of the upcoming mid-term U.S. Congressional elections. The most recent indications suggest that there may be some prospects for another push for immigration reform activity at House of Representatives level during the June/July period. However, the situation is continuously evolving and any predictions need to be made with caution.

In this context, I intend to travel to Washington DC next month for a series of further meetings with key contacts on Capitol Hill as well as with representatives of Irish – American lobby groups.   Although much uncertainty still remains as to how events in the U.S. Congress will unfold, it is important that we continue to demonstrate at a high political level the importance we attach to progress being made on this vital issue and that we position ourselves to best advantage on behalf of Irish people and their families who are directly affected.

Denis Naughten TD

Author: UI