Written answers

Thursday, 23 November 2006

Department of Foreign Affairs

US Immigration Reform

5:00 pm

Paul McGrath (Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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Question 34: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the possible effect that recent American elections may have on the Kennedy-McCain immigration proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39495/06]

Photo of   John Curran John Curran (Dublin Mid West, Fianna Fail)
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Question 42: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the recent contacts he has had as part of this campaign for the undocumented in America; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39464/06]

Photo of Peter KellyPeter Kelly (Longford-Roscommon, Fianna Fail)
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Question 47: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the recent contacts he has had as part of his campaign for the undocumented in America; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39589/06]

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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Question 76: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the impact the US mid-term election results will have on efforts to legalise Irish immigrants in the United States; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39577/06]

Photo of Billy TimminsBilly Timmins (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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Question 97: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has had conversations with his counterpart in the US administration to determine possible policy shifts of interest to the Irish people, particularly in view of recent election changes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39496/06]

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 34, 42, 47, 76 and 97 together.

The Government attaches the highest priority to the issue of the undocumented Irish in the United States. This issue is actively on the agenda of the Embassy and the Consulates in the United States in their on-going discussions with the Administration and on Capitol Hill. I myself raise it in all my discussions with the US Authorities including, most recently, in a wide ranging discussion with the new United States Ambassador, on 1 November. I also had detailed discussions in New York on 10 November with the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, an organisation that has been highly effective on Capitol Hill and beyond and which the Government has been supporting financially. I now look forward to further discussing and reviewing the prospects for immigration reform, in particular with key Members of the incoming Congress in the New Year. In this regard, my initial assessment is that the recent elections have given a boost to prospects for reform, though the issue remains a difficult and divisive issue both in Congress and in the United States generally.

I should emphasise also that I very much welcome the continuing commitment of Senators Kennedy and McCain to the advancement of the comprehensive approach to immigration that they have long promoted and which the Government strongly supports. I also greatly appreciate the recent reiteration by President Bush of his on-going commitment to comprehensive reform in this area.

The Government's overriding objective continues to be to ensure that our undocumented citizens in the United States can regularise their status, travel freely to and from Ireland and ultimately secure a path to permanent residency. Despite all the difficulties and challenges, I look forward to further progress on this priority issue for the Government in the coming period.

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