Dublin calls for regularization of undocumented Irish in US
Posted : Wed, 04 Apr 2007 12:34:01GMT
Dublin - Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern told a group of visiting lawmakers from the United States in Dublin Wednesday that the "regularization" of undocumented Irish citizens in the US was "a major priority area" for the Dublin government. Speaking at a conference in Dublin Castle, Ahern told the nine US Congress members that "a major priority area for the (Irish) government is our undocumented community in the United States."
Estimates place the number of Irish living and working illegally in the US at 30,000. Many overstay their tourist or student visas and find work among the large Irish-American community.
Since stricter immigration rules came into force after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US, large numbers of undocumented Irish have been unable to return to Ireland for fear they will be denied re-entry into the US.
"We are aware that some undocumented Irish people resident in the US are unable to travel home to visit their families, and we understand the difficulty and stress that this causes for them and their families," Ahern said Wednesday.
New measures to combat illegal immigration into the US, largely from Mexico, had placed in doubt the situation of the Irish, who are often ignored by immigration officials.
A new bipartisan bill introduced in the US legislature by Democrat Representative Luis Gutierrez and Republican colleague Jeff Flake in March aims to regularize the status of many illegal immigrants, giving them the option to stay on as guest workers.
"Although the legislative situation is fluid and the final outcome uncertain, the introduction of the bipartisan bill in the House marks a significant advance in the debate," Ahern said, welcoming the bill.
"In the weeks ahead, I will be attaching the highest priority to our efforts on behalf of the undocumented Irish," he said.
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