TÁNAISTE EAMON GILMORE has welcomed the US Senate’s passing of comprehensive immigration reforms that will provide a path to citizenship for some 11 million undocumented people living in the US.
An estimated 50,000 Irish people are among those living illegally in the US and Gilmore said the Senate vote is a “positive” development although the bill faces significant hurdles in passing the House of Representatives which is controlled by Republicans.
In the Senate 14 Republicans joined a unanimous Democratic side in supporting a bipartisan group of senators’ – known as the Gang of 8 – proposals which would mean undocumented immigrants facing a 13-year wait before applying for citizenship.
“This is a very positive development that takes us another step closer towards addressing the problems faced by undocumented Irish emigrants in the US and allowing them to emerge from the shadows,” the Tánaiste said in a statement last night.
“I strongly welcome the provisions in the Bill passed by the Senate to address the concerns of our undocumented and the specific E3 provisions for Ireland that provide a legal pathway for the future.”
The over 1,000-page bill would give legal temporary status to immigrants who arrived in the US without documentation before 31 December 2011.
This would allow them to work and travel without fear of deportation as long as they have not committed any federal crimes or three misdemeanours, pay a $500 fine and back taxes.
It also provides a lengthy 10-year path to obtain permanent resident status as long as the person lives continuously in the US, pays all the taxes they owe, has regular work and demonstrates a knowledge of civics and English. Three years after that they can apply for US citizenship.
But all of that is dependent on strengthening America’s border with Mexico with some $46 billion poured into border security as well as other security measures such as electronic employment verification and a modernised entry-exit system.
The Tánaiste also noted that the bill allows for the continuation of the J1 visa programme “that has meant so much to successive generations of young Irish people”.
He added that he intends to travel to Washington in the coming weeks to consult with “friends and key contacts” on Capitol Hill in an attempt to push the bill through the House of Representatives.