Taoiseach cautious on pace of US immigration reform

Kenny meets Irish community in San Francisco on first day of trade visit to US

The Irish ambassador to the US Anne Anderson:  Enda  Kenny  said  she and the Irish embassy would “continue to raise these issues at every appropriate opportunity”.  Photograph:   Marty Katz

The Irish ambassador to the US Anne Anderson: Enda Kenny said she and the Irish embassy would “continue to raise these issues at every appropriate opportunity”. Photograph: Marty Katz

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has warned it is “very difficult” to assess whether the US Congress might pass immigration reform helping an estimated 50,000 Irish people living illegally in America.

On the first engagement of his three-day trade mission to the US west coast, Mr Kenny told members of the Irish community in San Francisco there was uncertainty around whether US politicians would overhaul immigration law given the mid-term congressional elections in November.

An immigration reform bill putting an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship passed the Democrat-controlled Senate last year but has stalled in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

“It remains very difficult to get a reliable bearing on when progress might happen, not least with the mid-term US congressional elections on the horizon. While there may be some prospects for another push for immigration reform activity at House of Representatives level over the coming weeks,” Mr Kenny said, “the situation is continuously evolving and any predictions need to be made with caution.”

Mr Kenny told the gathering at the United Irish Cultural Centre that the Irish ambassador to the US Anne Anderson and the Irish embassy would “continue to raise these issues at every appropriate opportunity”. “And, as Taoiseach, I will continue to raise the issues at the highest political levels,” he said.

While the Government awaits a resolution to the issue of the so-called undocumented Irish in the US, “the important task of supporting our undocumented continues”.

The Taoiseach said the Government wanted undocumented Irish citizens to be “brought out of the shadows” and to ensure that US legislation was changed to enable a future flow of illegal immigrants, reversing the “unintended consequences” of the 1965 immigration act which put new Irish arrivals in the US at a disadvantage.

He said that while the 50,000 undocumented Irish were “only a small fraction” of the overall number of undocumented people in the US, they represented a “very sizeable group” to the Irish Government and the Irish community in the US.