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Varadkar hopes to discuss regularising undocumented Irish in US with Biden

Ireland’s premier Leo Varadkar hopes to raise the issue of undocumented Irish people in the US with American President Joe Biden this week.

The number of undocumented Irish citizens in the US is estimated to be in the tens of thousands.

Mr Varadkar is due meet Mr Biden in Washington later this week as part of a series of traditional engagements marking St Patrick’s Day.

Speaking in Boston on Tuesday, the Taoiseach said he did not know if the topic of undocumented Irish people would be specifically on the agenda as the key issues he wanted to raise were US-Ireland relations, the war in Ukraine and the crisis in Gaza.

He said: “I hope we’ll have time to touch on other issues, including immigration.”

He added: “There are a lot of Irish people here who are good people but are undocumented. Many working very hard, have children here, are contributing a lot to society here.

“What I say to [US officials] them is that we as [the Irish] Government put in place schemes to regularise people who became undocumented for various reasons.

“So for example, people who came to Ireland on a student visa, we had a system for them, to regularise their affair.

“And when I say – in a totally balanced way – the thing is that we’re not asking you to do anything we wouldn’t do.

“We put in place schemes in Ireland to recognise people who are undocumented.

“It’s not an amnesty, you know, it’s essentially somebody coming forward – fronting up saying they’re undocumented, potentially having to pay back taxes, all of those things.

“And I think that approach to those lines would work very well in the United States.

“But I also appreciate the politics of the United States. It’s a very difficult issue.”

The Taoiseach said he “understands” why the US could not have a special procedure for Irish citizens that did not apply to others who were undocumented.