We cannot make demands of US on immigration – Cowen
The Irish Times
April 2, 2009
IRELAND CANNOT make demands for the undocumented Irish in the US, Taoiseach Brian Cowen has told the Dil. He said that we must continue to put the case patiently in the corridors of power within the US at all levels.
But we must do so in a way that is respectful of the fact that this is also a major issue for Americans. Mr Cowen said there is no lack of goodwill towards the Irish people and there will always be a recognition that they have contributed positively. However, in the current circumstances it is important we understand we cannot make demands in this regard.
He told Martin Ferris (SF, Kerry North) that we need to empathise with and understand the American point of view in terms of the problems immigrations causes generally in the US and the tensions that can arise because of that, particularly in the context of significant unemployment in many parts of the States.
Mr Ferris had asked if anything practical can be done for these people who were virtually in limbo. A number who went there during the previous recession in the 1980s have not been back here since. Since many of those young people left, they have suffered family bereavements but have been unable to return home because they fear not being able to return to the US.
Mr Cowen agreed there were real hardships and human consequences to the inability thus far to regularise people so that they can come and go. He said all were aware of many genuine and heart-rending stories and know the families and individuals concerned.
He said there is a way forward and a solution can be found if we continue to adopt the right approach and are conscious of the difficulties for the US. If we proceed on those lines, there are prospects. There are no guarantees the situation can be resolved, but it is a serious domestic issue within US politics. There are many people of goodwill on both sides in positions of power who are interested in trying to devise a way forward but they have not been successful to date.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny asked if seeking comprehensive immigration reform should be the approach or should Ireland work on a bilateral approach.
Mr Cowen said one of the issues that has emerged from the debate is the need for the American public to feel reassured about the safety of its borders. When there is public confidence on that issue, the question of dealing with those who have travelled to the US illegally might be addressed in a more positive way than is possible at present.