Fine Gael Clare TD and Chairman of the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee, Pat Breen, has today (Friday) welcomed the passage of a major immigration reform bill through the US Senate, which offers hope to thousands of undocumented Irish living in the US. The bill was passed by a large majority in the Senate, and must now go to the House of Representatives for its consideration.
“US immigration reform is a topic the Foreign Affairs Committee has considered on a number of occasions over the last two years. Indeed, the issue is reflected in a large body of our work, and it is something I have been working personally on over the last number of years.
“The Irish Abroad Unit from the Department of Foreign Affairs appeared before the Committee recently to provide an update regarding the status of Irish illegal immigrants in the US, and we have also examined the topic with representatives from the Irish embassy to Washington. I had the opportunity to discuss immigration reform directly with Ireland’s US Ambassador, Michael Collins, at last weekend’s Kennedy 50th anniversary commemorations.
“Last night’s vote in the US Senate is a very positive step forward, but we still have a considerable way to go. A number of Republican Congressmen will need to be convinced of the merits of the bill, and it is important that the Irish lobbying campaign continues apace. I understand that the Tánaiste is to travel to Washington in the coming weeks to progress the Irish case, and it is the intention of the Foreign Affairs Committee to travel to the US capital in the autumn to continue our efforts on this issue.
“There are currently about 50,000 undocumented Irish living in the United States, to whom this bill would make a huge difference. They are living in legal limbo, unable to return home to visit family members, with constant uncertainty about their livelihoods and their future prospects. This bill, if passed, will end that uncertainty.
“A delicate period lies ahead, as US legislators consider whether to give their support to the bill. I will continue to work with US Congressmen and Senators to convince them of the importance and merits of this measure. I will also continue to liaise with Ciaran Staunton, President of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, who must be commended for his tireless work in this area.”