Speaking in Philadelphia on Saturday night at his first official event of a five-city St Patrick’s Day trade mission, Mr Kenny said while “immigration reform” is a “sensitive” issue, it cannot come at the expense of “hard-working, tax-paying Irish people”.
In an address to the Friendly Sons of St Patrick organisation, — a long-standing Irish-American group which refused to allow women members until just last year — the Taoiseach said Irish people must be protected.
“It will be no surprise to anyone here that one of my absolute priorities in meeting Vice-President Pence, President Trump, and other senior political figures this coming week is to renew the strong case on behalf of the hard-working, tax-paying Irish people in the US.
“For too long now, they have been living in the shadows, and want nothing more than to continue making their contribution to this great country.
“We all understand that immigration reform is a politically sensitive issue. However, I truly believe that a US immigration system that addresses the needs of the undocumented Irish, and provides for future legal flows, will be of huge benefit to America.”
It is unclear how the comment will be viewed by Mr Trump, who Mr Kenny will meet at the White House on Thursday. However, it comes at a time when the US president’s travel ban is due to come into effect, and as Mr Kenny travels to Boston, Washington DC, and New York — all of which are “sanctuary cities” that effectively allow law-abiding illegal immigrants to remain.
Mr Kenny also used the Saturday speech to argue that the Irish recovery is continuing and the country is in a strong position to entice more companies and inward investment.
Despite acknowledging the potential “troubled waters” facing Ireland due to Britain’s now imminent departure from the EU, Mr Kenny said Ireland’s economy is in a strong position.
However, he made no mention of homelessness, housing, health service, and other crises also risking the recovery, or whether the recovery is spreading throughout the country. During the same speech, Mr Kenny praised the Friendly Sons of St Patrick for what he said was a “courageous” step last year to allow women to join the more than 200-year-old organisation.