The Waterford TD, who worked as a parliamentary aide to Republican Congressmen on Capitol Hill in the nineties, has been engaging with American and Irish diplomats to lay the groundwork for a possible immigration deal since his appointment last summer.
“We reached agreement to pursue a bilateral deal and that’s real progress,” Deputy Deasy said after sitting in on the behind-closed-doors meeting in the Oval Office.
During his visit to Washington, the Taoiseach said: “On migration, John Deasy has been doing a lot of work behind the scenes and has had many meetings with US congress and with the US administration” on different options and different solutions.
“There isn’t a solution on the table as yet but there is a real willingness from the US administration to perhaps come to some sort of reciprocal agreement with Ireland recognising that the Irish who are undocumented in America are a particular group, they are relatively small numbered, maybe ten or fifteen thousand people and they did almost all come here legally in the first place and are hardworking, tax-paying people who are very loyal to America.”
“I know from what members of the administration have said that they would like to find a solution that would allow thousands of Irish people to be regularised but obviously then that has impacts on people from other countries too,” the Taoiseach conceded. There is also a legislative logjam in the US Congress.
Early in his role, John Deasy established from the Pew Research Center that the actual figure for the Undocumented Irish was much lower than the 50,000 usually quoted. This could well prove vital in facilitating a formula which would offer US citizens an easier avenue to work and retire in Ireland.
The provision of new visas and employment pathways could be offered in return for a similar arrangement for the undocumented Irish in America, many of whom overstayed a visitors’ visa many years ago and currently work and have families in the country, unable to return home.
The Taoiseach later told a lunch in Washington, hosted by House Speaker Paul Ryan — at which the Irish Ambassador to the US, Waterford man Dan Mulhall, was at the ‘top table’ — that he recognised the “complexity and sensitivity” of the political debate around immigration in the US but asked for“a sympathetic look at this issue.
“There was support and a good degree of enthusiasm from the administration to work on a solution for the undocumented Irish that are here but,” he said later.
At the Speaker’s lunch John Deasy was seated with the new scion of the Kennedy dynasty, Democrat Congressman Joseph Kennedy III, who is tipped as a future presidential candidate.