Senator Mark Daly, the Irish Senate’s spokesperson for the Irish Overseas and Diaspora, and the Chair of the Ireland America Association, has called on the Irish Government to ensure 2016 is the year the 50,000 undocumented Irish in America can come home to see their loved ones.

Many families will feel the impacted this year by the inability of an undocumented family member or friend to return home for the holiday season, with little progress made in 2015 as regards the creation of visas for these US residents.

“We estimate that approximately 500,000 people in Ireland, that includes mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and other family members are affected by the lack of immigration reform in the United States,” Daly said.

Although Christmas may be an especially difficult time for undocumented workers, the inability to travel back to Ireland is a fear and a concern at all times of the year.

“There has been little progress made in 2015; humanitarian visas were not made available, despite my request that the Government ask for President Obama to include such a provision in the Executive Action which is now being challenged in the supreme court,” continued the Fianna Fáil senator, elected as one of the youngest members of the 23rd Seanad (Irish Senate) in 2007.

“People should be given access to humanitarian visa, this would allow them to return to the US if they need to travel home to Ireland to be with family members in times of distress, illness or bereavement.”

Read more: The life of an Irish illegal immigrant in an era of anti-immigrant furor

Chosen as the first person in any Irish political party to be appointed as Spokesperson for the Irish Overseas and the Diaspora in 2012, Daly feels that it is time the government insisted that those Irish who have worked for a considerable amount of time in the US are awarded some form of visa.

“I am now calling on the Government to work on a resolution for the undocumented Irish in the United States,” Daly said, “who have lived there for in excess of 10 years and have contributed significantly to the US economy, without access to healthcare and social welfare protection.

“This is an emotive and important issue for many families throughout Ireland who miss loved ones, 365 days of the year, and that presence is most profoundly felt at Christmas.

“We need a more concerted effort from the Government on this issue The possibility of having loved ones home has been made impossible by a lack of action. I hope we are not in the same position, which we were last year and again find ourselves in this year, in Christmas 2016”

Kerry-based Senator Daly has long been an advocate of immigration reform in the US, working with Irish lobby groups to further the cause of undocumented Irish living in America. In this 2013 video, he speaks about the close links between Ireland and many of the US Presidents, highlighting that their ancestors may not have been able to travel from Ireland under current immigration laws.

Thousands of Irish won't be able to go home this Christmas, due to a lack of immigration reform.iStock