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Friday 1 December 2023 Dublin: -2°C
Immigration Reform

Kenny expects new drive to legalise undocumented Irish in US

The Taoiseach tells the Dáil that new security laws being prepared in the US could mean a new drive to legalise Irish immigrants.

TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY has said that a new drive to give legal status to the tens of thousands of undocumented illegal Irish living in the United States could begin shortly.

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Kenny said new security measures currently being considered by the United States could present a new opportunity to seek legal rights for Irish immigrants currently living outside the law there.

Given the current security concerns being faced by the United States, Kenny said, “it may well be that a package of enforcement measures may have to be brought forward”.

One possible amendment that could be tabled in response to the new laws would be one allowing current immigrants to apply for an E-3 visas, which allow them to remain resident in the United States as long as they have an employer to ‘sponsor’ them.

The E-3 visa is currently only offered to Australian citizens, but the amendment could allowing people of other nationalities to apply for it. The E-3 visa also allows the spouse of its holder to live in the US.

The option would not be of use to all Irish immigrants in the US, however – with the visa subject to a current annual quota of 10,500. At present there are thought to be up to 50,000 undocumented Irish living in the United States.

Despite this, Kenny said, the new measures could allow for a “release of pressure” with regard to the status of undocumented immigrants – a move which could potentially allow some currently illegal immigrants to visit Ireland for the first time in decades.

Irish people living illegally in the US are not eligible to receive social security, though conversely they also do not pay tax on their incomes.

At present such emigrants not able to return home, as they would not be permitted to re-enter the United States given the violations of their earlier visas.

Kenny told Socialist Party TD Clare Daly that any such amendment would be tabled by the senior senator from New York, Democratic member Charles ‘Chuck’ Schumer, with whom the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform had been in regular contact.

Kenny also said that previous legislation sponsored by the late Massachusetts senator Ted Kennedy, but which failed to win enough support to be passed, was not likely to see any success in the future.

“Politics in Washington has changed”, Kenny explained, and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives would probably block future attempts to revive Kennedy’s bill.