UNDOCUMENTED IRISH immigrants are "largely removed and marginalised" from positive developments in the relationship between Ireland and the United States, President Mary McAleese told an audience in San Francisco last night.
In a plea for greater understanding for their predicament, Mrs McAleese said it was important that efforts continue to reach an agreement to regularise the status of the undocumented.
"I am deeply conscious that there are many within the Irish community in this city who are caught in this situation. So many of the undocumented Irish have lived in the US for many years and, like generations of previous Irish emigrants, they work hard, raise families and make an important contribution to the economic and social life of their communities," she said. "And yet, they live in the shadows of society with fear and uncertainty as their constant companions. Most, we know, also suffer greatly from the pain of not being able to travel to and from Ireland because of the difficulties of re-entry."
Speaking at San Francisco's Irish Immigration and Pastoral Centre on the second day of a week-long visit to the US, Mrs McAleese said many undocumented Irish immigrants came to the US before the 9/11 attacks prompted tighter border restrictions.
"Meanwhile they got jobs, met partners, got married, raised families and put down roots in an adopted homeland that they had grown to love dearly," she said.
"Some very committed people have championed their cause and the Irish Government has used every possible opportunity to advocate on their behalf and will continue to do so. Efforts are also ongoing to reform our own wider migration arrangements with the United States in a way that complements the modern nature of our relationship."
Earlier yesterday, Mrs McAleese addressed a breakfast for Silicon Valley entrepreneurs hosted at Stanford University by Enterprise Ireland before inaugurating new GAA playing fields on Treasure Island. The President acknowledged that her message to American audiences has changed to take account of the economic difficulties faced by both Ireland and the US.
"We have come through a very difficult period and we're heading into a very difficult period. But we've also come out of an extraordinary time, a time when the whole of Irish fortunes were turned around, when we told a story about ourselves that we never thought possible," she said.