Sunday 26 February 2017

Minister to meet 'fearful' illegal Irish

Greg Harkin

Diaspora Minister Joe McHugh. Photo: Tom Burke
Diaspora Minister Joe McHugh. Photo: Tom Burke

Diaspora Minister Joe McHugh will meet undocumented Irish immigrants in Boston today, vowing to remain positive after the election of Donald Trump.

The minister said he would also lobby Massachusetts Republican Governor Charlie Baker during his three-day visit ahead of a return trip to Washington in January.

"The issues surrounding undocumented Irish in the States has gone way up the agenda in light of the election and the themes raised in the election," said Mr McHugh.

"I know of people who have been in America for 20 years and can't go home, sending their American-born children on planes to Ireland to visit grandparents.

"They are good people contributing to the societies where they live but they are constantly fearful and probably more so now."

Mr McHugh said the Government and its officials were working to build new relationships in State houses as well as Congress.

"We need to be extending our influence further into the Republican Party; they have always been warm to the idea of a warm relationship between the USA and Ireland," he added.

"We know a lot of like-minded state representatives from both parties in Capitol Hill and I'm due to meet some of them in January.

"Unfortunately, the undocumented Irish that I know personally have had a series of false dawns over the past 20 years, but this is the biggest issue for me and I remain positive that we can do something."

Mr McHugh said the Irish Government would try to build an alliance of supporters for the undocumented.

"Everything has changed. Brexit was the start of it and we have to be adaptable in how we face that change. It is going to be more restrictive and more difficult," he added.

"The politics of what we can do has changed, but Congress is a key mechanism - and Governors at a local level - in getting a result."

There is growing concern at reports that a Trump presidency could abolish state and city laws protecting the federal detention of undocumented workers.

Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor at Cornell Law School, in New York, said Mr Trump had the executive power to scrap those laws.

Irish Independent

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