Eamon Gilmore highlights plight of 50,000 'illegal Irish'

Eamon Gilmore casts his vote in Dublin last Friday Image copyright PA
Image caption Eamon Gilmore is holding talks in America

The plight of more than 50,000 Irish people living illegally in the US is the focus of a visit by Ireland's deputy prime minister.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore begins two days of meetings in Washington on Wednesday.

He is pushing for reform of the American immigration system.

Mr Gilmore wants to establish a visa regime for future legal migration between Ireland and the US. It would be part of a comprehensive reform package.

He is due to meet several Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, including former vice-presidential candidate, Congressman Paul Ryan.

Last year, the US Senate approved a comprehensive immigration reform bill which would allow for a "path to citizenship" for the almost 12 million undocumented migrants in America.

Since then, the focus has been on the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, where it is hoped cross-party support can still be secured for proposed reforms of the immigration system.

Speaking before he left, Mr Gilmore said: "We are focussed on trying to end the great hardship and uncertainty faced by undocumented Irish people living in the US, and by their families at home in Ireland.

"Securing overall agreement on US immigration reform will continue to be a complex and difficult process, but I am here to make sure that the Irish dimension to this debate is kept to the fore."

Mr Gilmore will also discuss the political talks in Northern Ireland with members of Congress and with Richard Haass.

The Tánaiste will underline the need for progress in advance of the summer marching season and the importance of continuing American engagement in the process.

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