Wednesday, 13 March 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Brendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
There are estimated to be around 10,000 undocumented Irish migrants in the United States and I am sure that when the Taoiseach meets President Trump tomorrow he will raise that issue. He will probably argue rightly that most Irish in America are taxpaying, law-abiding and hard-working people. They have contributed much more to the American economy than they have asked from it. However, because their papers are not in order, they cannot travel. or visit relatives. They cannot even come home to attend funerals. Some of them have children who were born into this administrative limbo. Labour Party policy, which I understand is also Government policy, is that these Irish people should have their migrant status regularised. Why can we not do the same for the taxpaying, law-abiding, hard-working people who are undocumented in Ireland? It is estimated that a few thousand adult workers here have irregular status. Will the Government ask the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, and the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Humphreys, to work together on a joined-up policy to provide regular migration status to all those workers?
We all know that we currently lack a sufficient, quick and responsive migration system. Some employers can be tempted to cut corners and, therefore, responsible employers will lose out. We have low unemployment, thankfully, and employers in many sectors are crying out for workers. Those workers are already here, working and housed. There is little economic cost and much to be gained by allowing these people to be regularised in the same way we are asking the United States to regularise our people. As the Tánaiste will know, these workers are often the mainstay of the agricultural and hospitality sectors and care work, looking after our vulnerable people. This can be low-paid, precarious work sometimes and those are matters we have to address too. Will the Government, therefore, introduce a scheme with the publication of clear criteria so that workers can get their migration status regularised?
In addition, we have a generation of our own dreamers, to borrow a phrase coined by President Obama, namely, children born or brought up in Ireland, some of whom are now approaching adulthood but who are denied basic rights and opportunities that all citizens of this country take for granted, for example, attending college, because their parents have irregular status. We are talking about a few thousand young people and children. Ireland needs a growing population. There is no economic cost to regularising their current status, only gain and moral good. Will the Government undertake to create a mechanism so that children born and raised here who have gone to school here, and those who were raised here but born abroad, can regularise their status and contribute fully and in safety to this nation?