Irish Leader Pleads For Action On Immigration Reform During Visit To Biden’s House

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said undocumented Irish immigrants have “suffered disproportionately” due to the lack of reform.

Gary Cameron / Reuters

Ivan Alvarado / Reuters / Reuters


WASHINGTON — Vice President Biden welcomed Taoiseach Enda Kenny, to the Vice President’s mansion Friday for an annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast. The two men took the opportunity to praise the strong relations between the two nations and make a joint plea for immigration reform.

“It is the frustration of people who look at elected representatives who say, ‘why can’t you do these things?,’” Kenny said.

Irish-Americans are increasingly getting involved in the immigration reform debate, pressing elected leaders to take action on comprehensive reform that would include a pathway to legal status for the thousands of Irish in America unable to travel due to fears of deportation. Kenny joined their cry during his remarks at the Vice President’s house.

“We’ve got 50,000 here in America, undocumented. And what we want is a process of legalization, where they pay their taxes, pay their way, raise their families, travel home and travel back,” he said. “To do that, in terms of the numbers that are in this country, is what’s going to make America. Is what’s going to regenerate it from generation to generation.”

Kenny praised the push for reform coming out of the White House and some quarters of Congress.

“I know that people who are currently serving on the Hill from both sides want to arrive at a position [on immigration]” he said. “I wish you every luck in that, and we will support any measure that is taken, Mr. Vice President, to see that happens.”

Biden praised Kenny for his past advocacy for immigration reform and issued his own fresh call for action on the issue through a story about a conversation he had with the former president of Singapore. The Asian leader told Biden that China was “looking for the black box” in America that “allows America to be the only country in the world that is able to renew itself generation after generation.”

Biden said a strong immigration system was a key to that success.

“I think I can tell him what’s in the black box. I said two things. One, every child, whether naturalized or naturally born here in America, is raised with the notion that you’re rewarded, not penalized, for questioning orthodoxy,” Biden said. “I said, ‘the second thing you’re going to find in the box, Mr. President, is a constant wave, a significant wave of immigration that never stops. Because that’s what revitalizes this country.’”

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Evan McMorris-Santoro is the White House correspondent for BuzzFeed News.
Contact Evan McMorris-Santoro at

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