Thousands of undocumented waiting to hear if they can visit Ireland

Jimmy Deenihan, Irish Minister for the Diaspora has said he is awaiting a response from President Obama's administration as to whether undocumented Irish will be able to travel between the United States and Ireland under the auspices of the new executive order on immigration. Deenihan was in Washington for politicla and Irish community meetings.

The executive order, announced in November following the defeat of the Democrats in the midterm elections, will confer a legal work status on millions of undocumented immigrants. Of the estimated four million undocumented immigrants in America, roughly 50,000 of these are Irish.

The executive order will protect the parents of children born in the United States and the parents of those with permanent residency. It is expected that many thousands of undocumented Irish will be eligible for the scheme, but those left out in the cold include undocumented who are childless and those who have US-born children but fall outside of the time parameters of the scheme.

During his recent visit to Washington, DC, Minister Deenihan has urged those who may be eligible to for these visas to gather all of the necessary paperwork now, including birth certificates, proof of residency, etc. This is a step that has also been urged by Irish immigration services that deal regularly with the challenges faced by the undocumented.

Speaking to the Irish Times, he said “People should embrace the opportunity that the Obama initiative will give them, and that they will not miss the opportunity.”

He also noted that despite vows from leading Republicans to see Obama’s executive action defeated in the Senate, he does not think it likely they will receive the 60 votes necessary overturn it.

While in DC, Minister Deenihan met with a number of key Republicans, including former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who has roots in Kilkenny. Deenihan indicated that the Irish government is seeking to strengthen ties with Republican party members, telling the Irish Times “They hold the reins of power here and I think we have to nurture those contacts at this point.”

Speculation continues to grow as to what exactly executive action entails, and whether or not it will allow undocumented Irish people to travel between the United States and Ireland. The ability to travel in the case of non-emergencies is one of the chief concerns of those hoping to obtain visas, as many Irish here have missed out on years of weddings, births and funerals in Ireland due to their inability to leave and re-enter the country.

Minister Deenihan, Irish Ambassador to America Anne Anderson and indeed the entire Irish government will be watching carefully as the Obama administration reveals information on the immigration order while navigating a hostile Republican majority, in the hopes that they welcome home thousands of undocumented Irish after years away.