Irish Republican News · November 22, 2014
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Obama order gives hope for emigrants


Irish emigrant groups have welcomed US President Barack Obama’s executive order on Thursday changing US deportation laws, which could allow many ‘illegal’ Irish to return to Ireland and visit their families.

The proposals includes a relaxation of restrictions allowing qualifying Irish immigrants to travel between the US and Ireland, ending - for some - years of missing important family occasions.

Mr Obama’s proposed temporary measures would allow millions of illegal immigrants, including, it is estimated, thousands of Irish, to live and work in the US without the risk of being deported.

The Coalition of Irish Immigration Centres (CIIC), described Mr Obama’s order as “an important first step towards fixing the currently broken US system”.

It said that “of greatest interest to the Irish community is the president’s plan to allow the parents of US citizen children to apply for work permits and relief from deportation, provided they have lived in the US for five years, are up to date on taxes and have no criminal background”.

The chairman of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Council for Emigrants, Bishop John Kirby, said undocumented emigrants “faced great personal turmoil and pain as they have been prevented from participating in key moments of family life,” he said.

In the face of strong opposition from Republicans in Congress, Mr Obama is bypassing his political opponents with executive actions, lifting the threat of deportation for about five million illegal immigrants.

His administration will begin accepting applications this spring from undocumented migrants who are seeking to avoid deportation.

In the absence of legislation, Mr Obama said that he would direct immigration enforcement agents to focus on deporting “felons, not families; criminals, not children” and overlook the illegal status of just over four million immigrants who are parents to US-born citizen children or legal permanent residents.

The measures will apply to those in the US for longer than five years once they pass a criminal background check and their taxes are paid up-to-date.

The 26-County government praised Mr Obama’s actions, noting how they will allow undocumented Irish to visit home under temporary measures, while permanent solutions are considered.

“It is important that people would have the opportunity to come home during the course of the pathway to citizenship being developed,” Taoiseach Enda Kenny said.

Sinn Fein Leader Gerry Adams TD said the absence of an estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish in the United States was felt in communities and families across Ireland.

But he said he was concerned that the majority of these will not benefit from these “limited” changes.

“Many of these people have been forced into economic emigration since 2007, due to the economic mismanagement of successive Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour governments

“Undocumented Irish workers contribute to the US economy and community. This should be recognised and their futures secured. Today is another step in the right direction but there is further to travel.

“We will continue to work with the parties in the US Congress, and the recently appointed US ambassador, to ensure full recognition is given to those Irish living and working in the US.”

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