Families of the undocumented Irish at a rally in Dublin in 2007

Undocumented Irish immigrants in the U.S. are cautiously optimistic about immigration reform after President Barack Obama said he would provide a "pathway to citizenship" for illegal immigrants.

Speaking in Mexico yesterday, President Barack Obama said he wanted to provide a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

He said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is already co-ordinating meetings on immigration reform with Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

"I would anticipate that before the year is out we will have draft legislation, along with sponsors potentially in the House and Senate, who are ready to move this forward," Obama said.

He said he wanted to be enable to enact legislation in 2010 which would provide a "pathway to citizenship" for millions of illegal immigrants.  "We have a broken immigration system. Nobody denies it," he said. "It's not fair, and it's not right, and we're going to change it."

And he said he would not be swayed by "short-term political calculations," adding that immigration reform is in the nationa's long-term interest.

But he said it was "very important for us to sequence these big initiatives in way where they don't all just crash at the same time."

The reform would legalize the status of millions of illegal immigrants in the U.S. - including approximately 50,000 undocumented Irish and give them "a pathway to citizenship so that they don't have to live in the shadows," Obama said. "So I'm confident we can get it done."

Mayo man, Gerry Brennan, 43, said he was still hopeful that comprehensive immigration reform would be enacted within the next 10 months.

Brennan, who has lived in Boston for the past 15 years, said he was cautious but optimistic that "things will come right."

"I've been on the ILIR rallies in Washington," he said, "and I've seen myself how hard this is to get through. It's like rolling a boulder up a big hill. But we have to keep pushing. What else can we do?" he said.

There are an estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish in the U.S. out of a total undocumented population of about 14 million.

Accurate numbers are notoriously difficult to come by but Irish immigration centers say that the number of Irish immigrants has been steadily rising amid the downturn in the Irish economy.