Written Answers - Emigrant Support Services.

Wednesday, 17 May 2006

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 619 No. 83

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 192. Mr. O’Connor Information on Charlie O'Connor Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Dermot Ahern Zoom on Dermot Ahern  the efforts he has made in respect of undocumented Irish in the USA; his recent contacts in the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18572/06]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): Information on Dermot Ahern Zoom on Dermot Ahern The St. Patrick’s Day period provided the Government with a very valuable opportunity to again make known our concerns about the welfare of the undocumented Irish in the United States and to reiterate our strong support for the approach to immigration reform favoured by Senators Kennedy and McCain. It was an opportunity that the Taoiseach and I availed of to the full in our meetings with President Bush, his Administration and key figures on Capitol Hill.

President Bush was appreciative of our concerns and emphasised to us his support for a comprehensive approach which involves reform as well as enforcement. This is an approach which he endorsed again earlier this week in a significant statement on immigration. I warmly welcome his remarks and, in particular, his view that most of those who are currently undocumented should be able to apply for citizenship, once qualifying conditions are met.

The Taoiseach and I also had important discussions with Niall O’Dowd and Grant Lally of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) during our visit to the US in March. Earlier this week in Dundalk, I met again with Grant Lally and we had a very helpful discussion on the current situation in the legislative debate. ILIR are most effective in giving expression to the views of many members of our community in the US on immigration reform. I was particularly pleased to inform Mr. Lally of my decision to provide a further US$50,000 to support ILIR in its important work.

It remains clear that reaching consensus on the sensitive and divisive issue of immigration reform presents US legislators with a very formidable challenge. I very much welcome the bipartisan agreement reached last week in the Senate on how the debate should proceed. This agreement enabled the resumption of discussion in the Senate this week on a compromise bill which, in its current form, contains many of the key elements of the Kennedy/McCain bill. These include provisions that would enable the majority of the undocumented to regularise their status and have open to them a path to permanent residency.

The discussions underway in the US Senate represent a very important phase in the debate on immigration reform. Should the Senate pass a [1525]bill, the legislative process will then move to a Conference Committee composed of representatives of the House of Representatives and the Senate convened to reconcile differences between the Senate bill and the Sensenbrenner/King bill passed in the House last December.

During this crucially important period in the Senate, the Deputy can be assured that our efforts on behalf of the undocumented Irish are being maximised to the greatest degree possible.

Questions Nos. 193 to 195, inclusive, answered with Question No. 187.

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