The head of the Irish Bishops’ Council for Emigrants has praised the US Senate Judiciary Committee’s recent vote in favor of immigration reform.

The comprehensive immigration reform bill passed a huge hurdle last week, with the Senate Judiciary Committee voting 13-5 for passage out of the committee and on to the senate floor.

Bishop John Kirby praised the US Senate panel for the bill which could create a pathway to citizenship for thousands of undocumented Irish living in the United States of America.

In a statement Bishop John Kirby said, “The IECE welcomes the approval of the bill which will give a path to citizenship for the estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish living in the United States. 

Through its centres and outreaches, the Irish Apostolate USA – the pastoral service of the Irish Bishops’ Council for Emigrants in the United States – experiences at first-hand and on a daily basis, the many difficult situations facing Irish undocumented immigrants living in the US. 

“However the proposed legislation will enable our emigrants to realise their dreams and ambitions, to come out of the shadows and to contribute actively as members of their local community.  Crucially it would also be a family-friendly law allowing our emigrants to return home to visit parents and loved ones, especially for important family occasions.”

Bishop Kirby concluded, “I ask for prayerful support for the success of this bill. We have had many knockbacks in the past. We will continue to monitor this situation closely and it is our hope that this bill will be brought to the Senate floor at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, the chairman of the Committee on Migration of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, also welcomed the Senate’s vote in favor of immigration legislation.

“This is an important step in the legislative process," said Archbishop Gomez. “I applaud Chairman Patrick Leahy and the committee members for their efforts and strong bipartisan cooperation.”

Included in the provision were 10,500 E3 visas for Irish recipients which will allow Irish natives to renew non immigrant visas every two years.

The bill must now go to the House of Representatives where it is expected to face opposition from House Republicans.

JANUARY 28: (L-R) U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Senate Majority Whip Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) listen during a nGetty