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Minister Flanagan addresses Dáil on US Executive Order re Immigration

Diplomatic Relations, International Law, Minister Charles Flanagan, Visas, Press Releases, Ireland, North America, 2017

 

Minister Flanagan addresses Dáil on behalf of the Government during Statements on the US Executive Order re Immigration

Minister Flanagan this morning (Wednesday) delivered a statement to Dáil Éireann on the US Executive Order of President Trump, the full text of which can be found below.

 

ENDS

Press Office

15 February 2017

 

CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

Statement on behalf of the Government:

US Executive Order (27 January, 2017) by 

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade

 

Ceann Comhairle, 

 

Executive Order of 27 January 2017

I wish to address the House with regard to the matter of the Executive Order signed by President Donald J. Trump on 27 January, 2017. 

 

In particular, I wish to make clear the Government’s position on the following three issues: this Executive Order; the operation of pre-clearance facilities at both Dublin and Shannon Airports; and Ireland’s relationship with the United States.

 

The Government’s position on this matter is clear and was set out in my in Press Statement on 29 January, 2017, immediately prior to my visit to Washington, DC, from 31 January to 2 February.  As I noted in that statement, while US immigration policy is a matter for the US authorities, it is clear that the Executive Order signed by President Trump on 27 January last could have far-reaching implications, both on humanitarian grounds and for relations between the United States and the global Muslim community.  I would further note that the Government fully shares the concerns expressed by other EU partners regarding this development.  

 

Alongside these concerns, a question arose about the possible effects on dual nationals.  On 31 January 2017, the US authorities issued a clarification which was also publicised by the US Embassy in Dublin.  This noted that the Executive Order in question does not restrict the travel of dual nationals to the United States, so long as they hold the passport of an unrestricted country and possess a valid US visa, if required.  

 

That means that Irish citizens travelling to the United States on Irish passports should encounter no difficulties in this regard, as long as they have followed the relevant procedures governing the US Visa Waiver Programme and, if necessary, have obtained a US visa prior to travel.  

 

I wish to underline that Irish citizens, who are dual nationals of one of the seven states listed in the Executive Order signed on 27 January last, have the same rights to avail of the US Visa Waiver Programme as all other Irish citizens.  A total of 5,003 certificates of naturalisation were issued in the period 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2016 to citizens of the seven states concerned.  Around 8,000 current Irish passport holders were born in one of these seven countries.

 

As the House will be aware, I travelled to the United States from 31 January to 2 February 2017, as part of a pre-planned visit to Washington, DC.  I had a number of meetings with several Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle – that is, both Republican and Democrat – including the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Paul Ryan; House Majority Leader, Mr Kevin McCarthy; and House Minority Leader Ms. Nancy Pelosi.  

 

I also travelled to the White House where I met with representatives of the US Administration, including the Former US National Security Advisor – Gen. Michael Flynn.  During my meeting with Gen. Flynn I expressed the Government’s deep concerns with regard to the nature and impact of the Executive Order of 27 January.  In response, Gen. Flynn outlined the rationale, in US immigration terms, for these temporary measures.  I also pointed out to Gen. Flynn the damaging consequences of these measures in humanitarian terms, as well as the impact on the international reputation of the United States.  I reiterated those views and concerns at my various meetings on Capitol Hill.

 

As the House will no doubt be aware, in recent days the US courts have intervened and imposed a temporary suspension on the implementation of the Executive Order of 27 January.  It would not be appropriate for me to comment further on a matter which is still the subject of legal proceedings.  

 

Pre-clearance at Dublin and Shannon Airports

In the context of discussions about the Executive Order in Ireland, the issue of Pre-Clearance facilities at both Dublin and Shannon Airports arose.  The matter was discussed at Cabinet and the Taoiseach has already requested that a review of preclearance be carried out.  This review – which is being chaired by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport – involves officials from the Department of the Taoiseach, the Department of Justice and Equality, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  I understand that this review is very close to completion.   

 

However, I would like to clarify the facts regarding a number of questions that arose about Pre-Clearance facilities.  The US-Ireland Pre-clearance Agreement was signed by the Minister for Transport and the Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security on 17 November, 2008 and given effect in Irish law on 8 July, 2009 by the Aviation (Preclearance) Act 2009 (No. 16 of 2009).  

 

The US-Ireland Pre-clearance Agreement states that nothing therein diminishes the rights enjoyed by individuals under the Constitution and laws of Ireland or, where applicable, the United States of America.  It expressly states that the pre-clearance facility is within Irish jurisdiction and that the laws of Ireland apply at all times.  

 

US pre-clearance officers are not considered law enforcement officers.  The only law enforcement officers at Irish airports are members of An Garda Siochána and Customs Officers.  From an operational perspective, facilities are provided to the US Border and Customs staff to operate the facility and normal Garda assistance is available to passengers and US staff in these areas.  

 

Passengers who wish to avail of pre-clearance do so on condition that they recognise and consent to the right of the US to grant or refuse pre-clearance in accordance with its laws.  Passengers present voluntarily for pre-clearance and avail of the facility on a consensual basis.  Until their flights depart, passengers remain in Irish legal jurisdiction and have the right to withdraw from the pre-clearance process at any time.  

 

If an individual is refused leave to board, they revert to the Garda immigration officer and are considered in the same manner as if they had presented at the frontier of the State seeking permission to enter.  Each case is examined on its individual merits, in accordance with Irish law.  The existence of pre-clearance facilities therefore has no effect on the capacity of persons to claim asylum in Ireland nor on the way that such individuals are treated.  

 

I would like to remind the House that pre-clearance of flights from Dublin or Shannon bound for destinations in the United States is not compulsory.  Air carriers choose to apply to have their services pre-cleared in either Dublin or Shannon.  

 

It is important to have clear factual information about Pre-Clearance in the public domain given its considerable benefits for Ireland.  Shannon Airport was the first airport in the world outside the Americas to offer a US pre-clearance facility.  Over 204,000 passengers used the pre-clearance facility at Shannon in 2016.  Pre-clearance is a major selling point with the airport’s business and tourism customers, supporting trans-Atlantic connectivity for its catchment area along the entire Western-seaboard: from Donegal to Kerry and also serving the Midland counties.  

 

During 2016, almost 1.2 million passengers used the pre-clearance facility at Dublin Airport.  Dublin Airport has seen continuous growth in trans-Atlantic flights since the commencement of pre-clearance in 2011.  Pre-clearance has been a key driver of transfer growth at Dublin Airport.  Dublin Airport is the fifth busiest airport for connectivity to North America in Europe, behind Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt and Schiphol.  

 

The availability of pre-clearance facilities at both Dublin and Shannon Airports is a key component of Ireland’s continued competitiveness in attracting US foreign direct investment, and Ireland’s position as a gateway to the wider EU single market.  

 

It is worth noting in this context that the US is currently expanding the pre-clearance programme, with 10 airports short-listed as potential sites.  

 

Relations between Ireland and the United States

Ceann Comhairle, I might make a few remarks regarding the relationship between Ireland and the United States.  

 

The Government’s priority is to ensure that the long standing and warm relationship between Ireland and the US is protected in the interests of Irish citizens on both sides of the Atlantic.  Our relationship is complex and multi-layered, is based on shared values, as well as our deep political, historic and economic ties.

 

In economic terms aloneover 150,000 people are directly employed in over 700 US firms in Ireland and that these account for over 74 % of all IDA supported employment.  In addition, Irish companies directly employ over 120,000 people in 227 companies at over 2,600 locations, in all 50 States across the USA.  US firms in Ireland form a critical part of Ireland’s cutting edge, internationally traded goods and services economy in industries such as information & communications technology, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, medical technologies and financial services.  

 

As a government we have a responsibility to protect and advance the interests of our country and our people.  As the House will be aware, the Taoiseach was the first EU Head of State or Government to speak with then President-elect Trump immediately following his election on 8 November last.  The Taoiseach also spoke with then Vice-President-elect Pence – who has strong links with Ireland.  Separately, I spoke with Mr Paul Ryan, following his re-confirmation as Speaker of the House of Representatives.  

 

Following the US Presidential elections, there was some public debate about St. Patrick’s Day events, specifically in Washington DC.  Collectively, the St. Patrick’s Day events in Washington provide invaluable opportunities for the Government to discuss, at the very highest levels with the US Administration, our priorities and concerns.  It is also an opportunity to inform the new Administration and Congress of issues of Irish interest, including immigration reform and the Peace Process, and to reaffirm our longstanding relationship, based on shared values of democracy and the rule of law, as well as economic and historic ties.  

 

St. Patrick’s Day offers the Government the opportunity – in a spirit of honest friendship – to raise our concerns with the United States’ Administration, as well as to honour the longstanding relationship between our two countries and peoples. The tradition dates back several decades, and has facilitated contact with both Republican and Democrat Administrations.  It is a key date each year in our multi-faceted bilateral relations.  

 

President Trump, Vice-President Pence and Speaker Ryan have all indicated that they would wish to continue with the tradition of marking St. Patrick’s Day in Washington, DC.  

 

As I have already noted, I visited Washington, DC, from 31 January to 2 February last and met, among others, Speaker Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, as well as a large number of members of Congress and representatives of the Administration.  Our on-going engagement with US political leaders – from both sides of the aisle – is essential in advocating issues of interest or concern to the Irish people and I would like to publicly thank the Congressional Friends of Ireland for their commitment to our country.  

 

As Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, I am acutely conscious of the challenges facing the undocumented Irish in the United States.  Achieving relief for undocumented Irish migrants in the US and agreement on a facility for future migration between Ireland and the US are longstanding Government objectives.  The undocumented Irish in the United States are believed to number around 50,000 individuals, spread across the US.  

 

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has and will continue to seek practical, beneficial solutions to the plight of the undocumented Irish.  The Government will also continue to support organisations that deliver frontline advisory services and community care to Irish emigrants through the Emigrant Support Programme, which is overseen by Minister of State McHugh, Minister of State for the Diaspora.  

 

Many emigrants to the United States achieve great success but many others can find themselves in vulnerable circumstances.  More than 70 % of the funds allocated through this programme are directed towards welfare services, including in support of the undocumented Irish in the U.S. In the last funding round for the Emigrant Support Programme, my Department was able to allocate more than € 2.3 million in funding to organisations in the United States.  I have visited Immigration Centres and I know that that funding makes a valuable contribution to vulnerable Irish citizens far from home and far from family networks.

 

During my recent short visit to Washington, DC, I had an opportunity to be fully briefed by our Ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Anne Anderson, and her colleagues at our Embassy on a range of issues of importance in our bilateral relations with the United States, including immigration reform.  Indeed, my officials regularly update me on this priority issue for the Irish government, which my colleague Minister McHugh and I, along with all of our government colleagues, are dedicated to progressing.

 

Our Embassy in Washington and Consulates across the United States remain in active and ongoing contact with Irish immigration centres throughout the U.S.  Ambassador Anderson hosted a meeting of stakeholders in the area of immigration at the Embassy on 12 January last for an exchange of views on how progress might best made in the new political context, and to underline the Government’s continuing commitment to those working with Irish immigrants in the United States.  

 

The bottom line is that it is only by continuing to engage with policy-makers in the US – both in the Administration and in Congress, as well as at State and local level – that we can articulate our concerns and seek to advance the interests of Irish citizens.  Whether it be with regard to the recent Executive Order or concerning the need for immigration reform.  As a Government we are determined to use every opportunity to set out our priorities on a broad range of issues, in the interests of our people, and of the values which both Ireland and the US share.  

 

ENDS