Written Answers - Emigrant Support Services.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 705 No. 4

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  83.  Deputy Denis Naughten  Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten   asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs  Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin   the progress made to date on resolving the issue of undocumented Irish in the United States; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13233/10]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Micheál Martin): Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Finding a solution for our undocumented citizens in the United States continues to be an important priority for this Government. We are also committed to enhancing our bilateral migration arrangements with the US through the establishment of a reciprocal two year renewable visa scheme, known as the E3 visa, and the further development of the working holiday programme.

During our recent St Patrick’s Day visit Washington, the Taoiseach and I took the opportunity to discuss immigration reform and the plight of the undocumented Irish during our [807]meetings with President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton and leading members of Congress. In his remarks at the St Patrick’s Day reception, President Obama offered an assurance that his own commitment to comprehensive immigration reform remains unwavering.

On 18th March, Senator Charles E Schumer (D-New York) and Senator Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina) unveiled their draft framework for action on immigration. This bipartisan proposal includes provision for a path towards legalisation for the undocumented. It proposes that the undocumented could become legalised provided that they admit to having violated US laws, undertake the repayment of taxes and perform community service.

I am encouraged by this significant development and also by the efforts which continue to be made on Capitol Hill to resolve this issue despite the considerable political challenges which still remain.

Our Embassy in Washington will continue to maintain very close ongoing contacts with both Congressmen and advocates who are engaged on this matter, so as to ensure that Irish interests are considered as part of the ongoing process towards the introduction of a new immigration bill. These contacts have made clear that the issue of the undocumented can only be fully addressed through comprehensive immigration reform.

This Government will continue to support and encourage movement towards finding a solution for the undocumented Irish. Through the Emigrant Support Programme, we have provided $285,000 to the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, since 2006, to assist with their lobbying efforts. In 2009, we also provided $10,000 to the Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform.

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