Ireland’s President Michael D Higgins acknowledged the “shadowy” lives and “insecurity” endured by undocumented Irish living in the United States and has pledged that they will never be left aside.
The President was speaking at a reception, at the United Irish Cultural Center, in San Francisco, CA, during his official visit to the west coast.
Higgins told the audience that he is “very, very well aware” of what living without documentation must feel like, “the risks and the shadowy life a person has to live sometimes”, and the “continuing insecurity not only for oneself but for others”.
“There are people who are working very hard and contributing to the economy and they are suffering…because of the circumstances in which they find themselves,” he said.
The President said that the estimated 50,000+ undocumented Irish living the US, working without visas had not only the president’s office’s “hopes and prayers” but also said they were working on a “practical agenda of work” to help them, the Irish Times reports.He said the Irish Consulate, the Embassy and the Irish Government were working on the issue. He also tribute to the Irish Ambassador to the United States, Anne Anderson, and her work for the undocumented.
Higgins said “We couldn’t have a better or more competent person advancing what is a very important issue for Ireland.”
The event at the United Irish Cultural Center was attended by more than 140 guests, many of them immigrants.
The President said there was nothing more important than caring for immigrants, no matter when the left Ireland. He also commented on those present and what rich and fulfilling lives they had created in their new home.
Currently on Capitol Hill, Jim Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin who has served in the House since 1979, will offer the bill that would allow the Irish access to the unused portion of Australia’s E-3 visa program which was created in 2005 and grants 10,500 high-skilled visas exclusively for Australian nationals each year. Although this will allow for a future flow of Irish immigration into the States it will not resolve the issue to for those who are undocumented.
Speaking to our sister publication, The Irish Voice, Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said that it’s important for the Irish to support this bill but added that he is “disappointed” that despite efforts there has not been any progress on US immigration reform. He added that is unlikely that any legislation would be enacted during President Barack Obama’s administration but that immigration reform will remains a top priority.
“Every minister who visits the U.S. has the issue top of their agenda,” Flanagan said. “We recognize that a special dispensation for the Irish is not going to happen. Nevertheless, we feel that in the context of the matter being addressed overall, the shadow must be lifted from thousands of Irish citizens here.
“This is not,” Flanagan added, “just a St. Patrick’s Day issue. And in spite of a lack of progress, we will endure.”
President Higgins was visiting San Francisco as part of an eight-day visit to the west coast of the United States. The main focus of the visit has been on his trips to Seattle and San Francisco. He has scheduled meetings at both Microsoft in Seattle and Google in San Francisco, where the President will meeting with the significant number of Irish staff members.
President Michael D Higgins will visit San Francisco to meet representatives of the arts and cultural community on Monday. He also made the keynote speech on global hunger and poverty the University of California.
On Wednesday he will plant a tree in Berkeley in memory of the five Irish students, and one Irish American student who died there in June. He will also visit the first-responders, volunteers and everyone who helped following the tragic balcony collapse.