Speaking during Topical Issues in the Dáil this evening Deputy Smith raised the issue of the undocumented Irish living in the United States and urged the Government to use the period over the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the US to press the case for immigration reform.
He commented: “In June 2013, the US Senate passed the most monumental overhaul of U.S. immigration laws in a generation, which would clear the way for millions of undocumented residents to have a chance at citizenship, attract workers from all over the world and devote unprecedented resources for security along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The vote was 68-32. Fourteen Republicans crossed the aisle to vote with all Democrats in favour. That vote put the onus of immigration reform on the Republican-led House, where leaders have been resistant to the Senate legislation.
“Speaker Boehner had refused to bring the Senate bill to the floor or even go to conference with the Senate. However, he has stated that reform of the immigration laws will be a priority in 2014 for the House. He told USA Today in December 2013 that immigration is next on the agenda once the Senate passes a bipartisan budget deal for the next two years.
“The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) is still fighting for the estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish in the immigration debate. ILIR was set up in December 2005 and since then they have held several immigration rallies throughout the US and high-profile lobby days in Congress to lobby for our undocumented Irish workers.
“Indeed, Irish Americans from across the USA will be out in force in the American capital next Wednesday, March 12, lobbying for immigration reform during a rally day organized by the ILIR.This one is specifically aimed at Republican members of the House who are not in favour of reforming US immigration laws. It is interesting to note that prior to 1965, the Irish could immigrate to the U.S. freely, and about 17,000 did annually.
“Minister, the St Patrick’s Day celebrations are an important time to celebrate and consolidate our links with the United States. It is also an opportunity to raise the issue of the undocumented Irish at the highest levels of influence in Washington DC.
“I am raising this Topical Issue to establish what progress has been made, in the Government’s view, on advancing the cause of the undocumented Irish in the United States. Can the Tánaiste provide us with an update as to the current political initiatives that are planned to advance this issue further?
“It is important that the Government use all its influence to try and settle this manner. There are thousands of families who are torn apart as a result of the lack of reform in this area. If there is a reform, we need to be at that table.”