The time has “long passed” for an overhaul of immigration laws in the United States that would benefit around 50,000 undocumented immigrants from Ireland. This is according to Charlie Flanagan, the country’s minister for foreign affairs and trade, who made the remark while visiting Washington DC.
The Irish community within the United States has been handed “disappointment after disappointment”, Flanagan says, pointing out that political differences are no excuse for the way plans to enact immigration reform have stalled in Congress. He notes that difficult and often controversial issues are what politics are all about and such controversy is no excuse for ignoring the issue altogether.
Flanagan is particularly concerned that undocumented Irish immigrants are unable to return to Ireland, even for important events such as weddings, christenings and funerals. “I know from my own work as constituency TD in Laois-Offaly the harrowing tales of people disconnected most unfairly over a long number of years from their loved ones,” he says. Flanagan says that he intends to ensure that the secretary of state, John Kerry, and the vice-president, Joe Biden, are aware of the mounting frustration of the Irish community over the issue.
Last year the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill with the support of both Democrats and Republicans, which would have given around 11 million undocumented immigrants, including many Irish immigrants, the chance to get on a path to US citizenship; however, this legislation has come to a standstill in the House of Representatives.