Simon Carswell, Arthur Beesley
Last Updated: Saturday, March 15, 2014, 08:03
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has issued a direct plea in Capitol Hill to the speaker of the US House of Representatives to quickly forge a deal on immigration reform.
Mr Kenny’s uncompromising remarks to John Boehner came as US President Barack Obama urged political leaders in Northern Ireland to return to talks to break the political deadlock over flags, parades and the past.
“I was disappointed, the US government was disappointed that the all-party talks could not arrive at a final conclusion and agreement,” Mr Obama said.
On a busy day of political meetings in Washington to mark St Patrick’s Day, Mr Kenny reiterated the message that undocumented Irish immigrants are treated badly under decades-old legislation and wish only to play their full part in American society.
The remarks stand as his strongest intervention on US immigration law, one of the most deeply divisive questions in US domestic politics.
At the shamrock ceremony in the East Room of the White House last night, the Taoiseach noted St Patrick himself was an immigrant when he came to Ireland. “We know America will sort this out,” Mr Kenny told the gathering.
He had pressed the message earlier in private talks with Mr Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the White House and used the platform of a Capitol Hill lunch hosted by Mr Boehner to say a renewed effort was urgently required. Mr Boehner, who is a staunch opponent of Mr Obama’s political agenda, is a pivotal figure as his control of Republican votes in Congress can determine the fate of draft laws to overhaul immigration rules which have already passed the Senate.
According to Mr Kenny’s official spokesman, the Taoiseach departed from his prepared speech to tell the lunch gathering that it was well past the time for action.
“It is unfair. They want to earn their money. They want to pay their taxes,” the spokesman reported he said.
“They want to sing their national anthem and when they sing they want to sing in the land of the home of the free and the brave which they aren’t at the moment.”
The Taoiseach said Mr Obama wants Irish Ambassador to the US Anne Anderson and other Irish representatives to engage with all parties in the debate.
“There are a number of propositions before the legislature at the moment,” Mr Kenny told reporters.
“The important thing, however, is that there would be a process of legalisation for people who are here undocumented, that they could pay their taxes, contribute to American society, raise their families, and have the freedom to travel over and back,” said Mr Kenny.
Please pay particular attention to the last part of the Taoiseach’s statement. He states very emphatically that the plight of our undocumented Irish nationals currently living here in the U.S. should be addressed first. There is no such mention of a so called “Irish E-3 temporary work permit” for prospective emigrants from Ireland. As we have said from the start, the issue of permanent visas (not temporary work permits) for those wishing to emigrate in future can be addressed after the immediate problem is resolved.
Jack Meehan, National President Emeritus
Ancient Order of Hibernians in America
Boston Irish Group – Board Member