The United States President has said America could be ready to for a reciprocal visa arrangement for Americans looking to live and work in Ireland.

President Trump is ready to do a deal which could provide legal status to the undocumented Irish in exchange for a reciprocal arrangement for Americans looking to live and work in Ireland.

During his meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office last Thursday morning Trump was the first to raise the issue of the Irish undocumented, and he expressed a willingness to negotiate a new deal which would offer legalization.   Though a definite framework for such an agreement has yet to be finalized, Varadkar’s special envoy for the undocumented, Co. Waterford TD John Deasy, has made it a point to stress the concept of reciprocity during his many meetings with White House and Capitol Hill staffers.   

Easing the way for Americans who wish to live and work in Ireland has appealed to Trump, whose White House campaign was targeted at undocumented immigrants, multiple sources told the Irish Voice.

“We were very happy with the meeting in the Oval Office and that the president first raised the issue of the undocumented,” Deasy, who was present at the meeting, told the Irish Voice.

Envoy for the undocumented, Co. Waterford TD John Deasy.

Envoy for the undocumented, Co. Waterford TD John Deasy.

“We agreed to pursue a deal between the two countries based on reciprocity and we are now working out the detail. The problem we have is that Congress is finding it extraordinarily difficult to pass immigration legislation of any kind. That remains the singular biggest problem at this point.”

Trump was well briefed on the Irish undocumented issue and expressed his support for a deal that also included provisions both for Americans wishing to retire in Ireland, and those seeking to work there.   Those retiring in Ireland who cannot claim Irish citizenship must have a minimum income of €50,000 annually along with other stipulations that many Americans find onerous.

Interest among Americans in retiring to Ireland is substantial, says Deasy, and making the process easier to navigate will help to increase the desirability of Ireland as a retirement destination.  Offering such a deal has been a plan of Deasy and Varadkar’s for several months, Deasy said.

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Another factor that has helped to possibly pave the way for an agreement between the Trump administration and the Irish government is the number of Irish undocumented in the U.S., which Deasy says is in the region of 10,000-15,000, and not the 50,000 figure which has been regularly cited.  Though Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said during a trip to New York last September that the Irish government accepts the 50,000 figure, Deasy is firm that the lower number applies and that the White House agrees.

“The lower number is very significant, and it is accepted at the White House and on Capitol Hill based on information from Homeland Security.  The 10,000-15,000 figure is making the issue much easier to deal with and making any potential accommodation easier to come up with,” Deasy says.

A definite framework has not yet been drafted, he added.  The number one goal is securing legal status for the undocumented; lack of a path to citizenship would not be a deal breaker.

Should the undocumented Irish raise their hopes?  Not at this juncture, Deasy cautions.

“I’ve operated on the basis of never raising anyone’s expectations and I’m going to continue to do that,” he added.

“I worked on Capitol Hill 20 years ago and it was much easier to pass legislation then. It is incredibly hard now. So it would be irresponsible to raise expectations even after a very good meeting in the Oval Office between the two countries.”

The Irish government delegation met with a number of political leaders last Thursday, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, who hosted his annual St. Patrick’s luncheon.  The message was delivered that Trump is supportive of an Irish/U.S. visa deal.

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania at the White House.

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania at the White House.

Deasy will continue to travel to Washington in the coming weeks to work with the White House and members of Congress on crafting a package that will meet with approval on all sides.  Asked if a new deal with Ireland might anger other nations, or prompt them to request similar deals, Deasy said the Irish government has been supportive of all nations putting their case forward to the U.S. government.

“We have always supported comprehensive immigration for all. We support DACA.  In all of meetings on Capitol Hill we’ve stressed our support,” Deasy said.

After Thursday’s Oval Office meeting, Varadkar told members of the Irish media that the undocumented Irish issue "was something that was very much on [Trump’s] mind.

"We have a measure of support and degree of enthusiasm from the administration to work on a solution for thousands of Irish people who are here undocumented but who are hard-working, tax-paying people who are very loyal to America."

The taoiseach also spoke about the undocumented in his speech later on Thursday at the St. Patrick’s party hosted by Trump.

“I know that the Irish people who have made their lives here, including those who are undocumented and living in the shadows, love this country dearly,” he said. “They have the same dream as the men and women who inspired Washington, fought for Lincoln, and work alongside you today.   “They want to continue to contribute to the life of this great country, and continue to play their part. Their dream will never die. “I want to assure you, Mr. President, that the Irish government will continue to work with your administration to find a solution to this important issue. And we are willing to match any move with the same or better for Americans in Ireland.”

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President Donald J. Trump.Gage Skidmore / Flickr