Republican presidential hopeful opposes deporting illegal Irish

Ohio governor John Kasich would as president offer legalisation, not citizenship

US Republican presidential candidate John Kasich has rejected a proposal by a rival, Texas senator Ted Cruz, to track down and deport undocumented Irish immigrants, saying that he would instead offer them a path to legalisation.

Speaking after a campaign event in New York five days before New York’s crucial presidential primary vote, the Ohio governor dismissed the Texan’s idea.

"I'm not rounding anybody up. That is not my view," he said speaking to The Irish Times and other news outlets in the town of Jericho after recording a town hall interview for US network MSNBC.

Mr Kasich, who is running a distant third in the Republican race behind frontrunner Donald Trump and Mr Cruz, said that immigrants living illegally in the US – estimated at more than 11 million and including an estimated 50,000 Irish people – should be given a path to legalisation if they haven't committed any crimes but not full US citizenship.


“They’re going to pay back-taxes and maybe other fines. We want to give them a path to legalisation, not to citizenship,” he said.

The second-term governor said the time it would take undocumented immigrants to become legal was a thing “to be worked out”.

Mr Kasich said he had "absolutely" no doubt that a plan to protect the US border with Mexico, create a guest-worker programme and a path to legalisation for those who have not committed crimes would be approved.

"I think it will pass the Congress and I don't even think it will be that difficult," he said.

He rejected the idea that a path to legalisation but not citizenship would create a tier of second-class citizens among the US population.

“Well, the fact is they came here illegally and you don’t want to reward somebody who jumps the line,” he said.

The governor is the most moderate of the three remaining Republican candidates when it comes to immigration. The party’s presidential primary has been dominated by anti-immigrant rhetoric and hardline proposals.

Mr Cruz told Fox News last month that he would send federal agents to the home of "Tommy O'Malley", a hypothetical undocumented immigrant from Co Cork, who has settled in Long Island and put him on a plane back to Ireland.

Mr Kasich rejected the idea in his interview with MSNBC.

"We're not going to go yanking them out of their home and deporting them," he told the network's host Chris Matthews in an interview to be broadcast on Thursday night.

Exit polls in presidential primaries have shown a high level of support among Republican voters for Mr Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country and to build a wall along the US-Mexico border.

A comprehensive immigration Bill that would have given undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship passed the Democrat-led Senate in 2013 but stalled in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives after the then speaker John Boehner, a Republican, would not put it to a vote.

Mr Kasich said during Thursday’s televised town hall that as US president he would put an immigration Bill to a vote in the House.

Asked afterwards about the plight of “Tommy O’Malley,” the Ohio governor initially wanted to talk about an Irish golfer instead.

"How about Rory McIlroy? Let's talk about him. I think he disappeared at Augusta," he said, referring to the Northern Irishman's tied-10th finish at the US Masters last week after challenging for the lead in the first two of four rounds at the first major championship of the year.

The presidential candidate is in second place in the polls in New York, running about 32 points behind Mr Trump, and is putting all his White House hopes on a long-shot bid in a contested party convention in July.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent