Taoiseach pushes for immigration reform on NY visit

Kenny says ‘undocumented’ need to be allowed travel back to Ireland

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has called again for changes to American immigration laws that would allow illegal Irish emigrants living in the United States to travel back and forth to Ireland freely.

Speaking on a visit to New York, Mr Kenny said in a speech that the so-called “undocumented” Irish in the US needed be able to travel home as they pleased and “have a line for citizenship if that’s what people wish.”

In the address to the annual dinner of the Ireland-US Council, a business organisation, Mr Kenny referred to a private family room he opened in a hospital last week for the bereaved. The room had a large television, which the Taoiseach thought was “a bit elaborate.”

“This is for speaking to people in America when they can’t go home when somebody dies,” he was told by the hospital.


“If we are to have legislation changed, changes made in immigration status, it means that those people who are registered here, pay their taxes here, want to live here and be able to go home,” he told an audience of more than 300 people.

The Taoiseach was speaking as US media reports said that President Obama was planning to take executive action, bypassing Congress, to lift the threat of deportation over as many as five million of the estimated 11 million people living illegally in the country.

Immigration activists estimate that the actions, which are opposed by Republicans, could benefit thousands of illegal Irish among the 50,000 undocumented Irish the Government estimates are in the US.

Mr Kenny’s speech to the council, which was founded 52 years ago, at the Metropolitan Club on Central Park focused on the Government’s efforts to continue the economy recovery after the crisis.

“Rosetta has landed on the comet 300 million miles out,” he said, referring to the historic landing of a robot probe this week. “Surely to God we can fix a few things at home?”

Businessman Gerald Crotty, chairman and chief executive of Mayo Renewable Power, which plans to build a €175 million biomass-burning power plant in Killala, Co Mayo, was honoured at last night's event.

Mr Crotty whose grandparents came from Co Clare, paid tribute to Mr Kenny’s efforts in Ireland’s recovery.

"Risk capital would not invest in power plants and infrastructure - and anything else for that matter - in an economy that is destabilised or bankrupt or shrinking," said the former counsel to former New York State governors Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo, and current president and co-founder of Weichert Enterprise, a private investment firm.

The Taoiseach will visit the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange this morning and ring the market’s opening bell.

He will also visit the Lennox Hill HealthPlex, a Manhattan emergency room, and meet members of the Partnership for New York City, a group comprising chief executives of leading businesses.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

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