Press Centre

Obama Visit Gives Hope to Undocumented in U.S. and Ireland

NEWS RELEASE: 22 May 2011

30,000 Undocumented Migrants in Ireland Require Humanitarian Solution

The Irish Government’s call for the regularisation of undocumented Irish in the US during Barack Obama’s visit highlights the need for a response to the situation of undocumented migrants here in Ireland.

"There is a strong historical connection between Ireland and the US, with many Irish people seeking new opportunities there over the years," says Edel McGinley of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland.   "This is no different to the experience in Ireland, with migrants coming here in search of a better future. However in both countries many people have ended up undocumented, for a variety of reasons. Providing a humanitarian response to this situation remains a critical issue for both the Obama administration and the Irish government."

Ms. McGinley continues, "There are an estimated 30,000 undocumented people, including children and families, who have been living undocumented in Ireland. Just like the Irish in the U.S., they too are deeply rooted within our communities, working, paying taxes and trying to make a better life for themselves and their families. But they live in the shadows under tremendous stress and fear of deportation and they endure greater poverty and isolation. They are effectively cut off from visiting their extended families, are more vulnerable to exploitation, and are excluded from basic services and opportunities for progression."

Jayson, originally from the Philippines, came to Ireland in 2004 and describes being undocumented:

“It is very hard to be undocumented.  I feel invisible.   I have three children and although we talk by phone and Skype as often as possible, it makes me very sad.  My youngest gets upset and keeps asking, 'Dad, why are you not coming home.'   I tell him a few more months, but now it's been seven years.  I feel I am in limbo.  I am not looking for a hand out, but for fair consideration to be given to finding a solution.   A regularisation scheme would make a huge difference to me and my children, and to thousands of people like me.”

Ms. McGinley concludes, "Many people became undocumented in Ireland due to the previous government’s failure to establish coherent immigration structures and policies.  Ireland has the opportunity to provide a fair and pragmatic solution to this situation by introducing a regularisation scheme which considers both the rights and responsibilities of undocumented migrants, and the Irish State. The introduction of a scheme for undocumented in Ireland would give credibility to Irish efforts to persuade the Obama administration to regularise tens of thousands of undocumented Irish citizens settled in the US."