McDonnell welcomes ‘brave and visionary move’ by President Obama
“This is a brave and visionary move by President Obama. The protection that will now be given to up to five million illegal immigrants from deportation will benefit countless Irish immigrants and their families. The plans to offer work permits to millions of undocumented people could potentially benefit thousands of Irish people.
“The law will also allow many illegal Irish immigrants a better chance of visiting home. Over the years I have heard many heart breaking stories of immigrants missing time with ill family members and missing funerals. The measure that has been described as a ‘relaxation of the re-entry ban’ imposed on illegal immigrants who leave the US to return to their home countries. In cases of personal hardship, with advance permission those with temporary status will be allowed to come and go.
“The new laws will also recognise the contribution of those who have worked and lived in the US for at least five years, have children and are either US citizens or legal residents as they will be allowed to apply for a work permit if they register for taxes and social security.
“In a very welcome move enforcement officials will only deport those convicted of serious offences rather than the current position where those arrested for minor offences are at risk of deportation.
“Irish students could potentially benefit from new visas for students who complete science and technology degrees and for entrepreneurs who have capital funding and can create jobs.
“Over many years I, along with my SDLP colleagues, have worked closely with a number of Irish immigration support and reform groups across the US. I would like to commend them for their work and dedication.
“I warmly welcome these new laws. This is a brave and visionary move by President Obama who in going against the views of so many others is recognising the immense contribution of immigrants to the economic life of the United States. It may not be everything that undocumented Irish immigrants were looking for or need but it is a very positive step and I am hopeful that that many will benefit from the new laws.”