The Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern is to travel to the US tomorrow to further lobby Senators to ensure up to 50,000 undocumented Irish can remain there, it emerged today.
The minister revealed a number of meetings would be held in Washington with senior officials involved in drawing up new legislation on immigration reform, including Senator John McCain.
Mr Ahern said he planned to use the 48-hour trip to lobby as many people as possible. "I left it to the last minute to see what the lie of the land was," he said.
"And I just feel that given the importance of getting as good a proposal out of the Senate as possible, and to be fair to all concerned, and indeed President Bush has been very instrumental in effect in knocking heads together.
"I just want to go there to give an Irish perspective to the situation because for a long time a lot of Americans didn't even realise there was an Irish aspect to this issue."
Mr Ahern will also meet with leading lobbyists pushing to ensure the undocumented Irish can stay in the US. The US Senate this week began considering the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006.
The bill could see penalties imposed on those living and working illegally in the US but also open the door to permanency for millions of others.
The proposed legislation creates a system of penalties for foreign-born residents who entered the country illegally, but it also allows up to 12 million illegals in the US to get on a path to eventual citizenship.
The next few days could prove crucial as Senators prepare to vote on providing a solution for the tens of thousands of undocumented Irish living and working in the US, some of whom have not returned home for several years.
It is hoped the Senate may finish their discussions on the matter towards the end of the week before the Bill is finalised in June. It is understood the new rules will have to be reconciled with separate legislation dealing with border security.
© The Irish Times/ireland.com