Obama has chance to help Irish ‘undocumented’ visit home

Taoiseach declines to ‘interfere’ in US debate but notes ‘opportunity’ to assist Irish

Taoiseach Enda Kenny rings the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange yesterday, beside NYSE president Tom Farley. Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Taoiseach Enda Kenny rings the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange yesterday, beside NYSE president Tom Farley. Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

 

US president Barack Obama’s proposed actions to protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation was an “an opportunity” to create a means of allowing the “undocumented” Irish to travel back to Ireland and return to the US, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said on a visit to New York.

Mr Kenny declined to be drawn into the heated political debate on immigration reform between the Democratic White House and the ascendant Republican leadership in the incoming US Congress.

“It is not for me to interfere in the American political system but I do think that this is a very topical issue here and it is a very hot issue for the Irish,” he said on a visit to the New York Stock Exchange.

Obama administration officials have said the president may take executive action shortly, in the face of opposition from Republicans, to permit long-term illegal residents who are parents of American-born citizens or legal residents to live and work legally in the US.

“I am not going to interfere in that except to say that Ireland will be very supportive of measures dealing with immigration which will solve our particular problem of the 50,000 that are here who are undocumented,” said Mr Kenny.

It is not clear how many Irish will be affected by the administration’s proposals, or how many “undocumented” Irish live in the US given their illegal status.

Path to citizenship

Mr Kenny later visited the Lenox Hill HealthPlex, a Manhattan emergency room, and met about 20 chief executives of New York-based companies in the Partnership for New York City on his two-day trip.

Speaking on a visit to Burma (Myanmar), Mr Obama said he would “use all the lawful authority that I possess” to try to make the immigration system work better “before the end of the year”.

He said that he had warned the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner several months ago that he would take executive action if Congress did not introduce comprehensive immigration reform.