Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Renewed hope for undocumented Irish in US

A new era of openness towards immigration reform in the US has led to renewed hope for thousands of ‘undocumented’ Irish, writes Mark Hilliard.

Thu, Nov 15, 2012, 15:03



Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore with former US Congressman Bruce Morrison at Leinster House on Tuesday.

A new era of openness towards immigration reform in the US has led to renewed hope for thousands of ‘undocumented’ Irish.

Barack Obama’s return to the White House, coupled with a growing realisation by leading Republicans that immigration is not a subject they can afford to ignore, has put the issue firmly back in the spotlight.

On Tuesday, Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore met with former US congressman Bruce Morrison, a long time proponent of immigration reform.

It is understood Mr Morrison noted the “new expressions of openness” amongst republicans and it is hoped the matter could finally be dealt with in a substantive way.

Mr Morrison addressed members of the Oireachtas on the issue of immigration reform at a briefing organised by Seanad spokesperson for the Irish diaspora Senator Mark Daly, saying the priority for Irish lobbyists on Capitol Hill was the E3 visa, which would allow up to 10,500 Irish people to work legally in the US for up to two years.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One this afternoon, Mr Morrison said there was a chance the E3 Visa Bill could be passed into law before the end of this year, or introduced as part of more comprehensive immigration reform next year.

Elsewhere, in a response to two parliamentary questions on the issue, Mr Gilmore said Irish officials would step up efforts to pursue some kind of resolution.

Because the immigrants in question are undocumented, an accurate number of illegal Irish in the US is difficult to ascertain. However, Irish community groups have noted an increase in recent years as more people leave Ireland in search of work.

Without legitimate documentation, those living and working illegally in the US are unable to return home to Ireland.

“The advice of Ireland’s friends and contacts within the US Administration and Congress has long been that comprehensive reform of the US immigration system and procedures is likely to be the only manner by which such a resolution can be achieved,” Mr Gilmore said in response to a question from Sinn Fein TD Sandra McLellan.

“In welcoming the outcome of last week’s US presidential election, I noted that the prospects for such reform would certainly appear to have advanced as a result of President Obama having won a second term.

“Our contacts with the US Administration and Congress will intensify even further over the coming weeks and months with a view to ensuring that the interests and concerns of undocumented Irish immigrants are captured.”

If there is to be a positive development for the future of unofficial Irish immigrants in America, it would have to come as part of an overall legislative approach, he said, and potentially a widespread amnesty.

To hear Mr Morrison speaking about immigration reform on RTÉ’s News at One today, click here.

For an in-depth analysis of the increasing number of undocumented Irish in the US and what life is like for them, read Ciara Kenny’s Generation Emigration feature published in The Irish Times in June, No job, no papers, no going home.