Undocumented Irish people who have lived for some years in the United States and have children born in the country are likely to benefit most from President Obama’s plans to overhaul immigration rules.
And for some it will raise hope they will finally, after many years, be able to return home without being barred from re-entering the US.
President Obama, speaking in Las Vegas early this morning Irish time, laid out his plans to give some 5m illegal immigrants a chance to live and work in the US free of the fear of deportation.
But there will be still many Irish people who are not covered by the president’s proposed executive action — essentially bypassing Congress.
The move has sparked a ferocious political fight in the US, with Republicans accusing the president of acting like an “emperor”.
Those Irish who entered the US and overstayed their visas since the 2008 crash will, for the most part, not be covered by the rule changes.
Ciaran Staunton, the chairman of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform —though not wanting yesterday to speculate on the details of the reform ahead of Mr Obama’s speech — said his group would continue to work on behalf of all the Irish undocumented in the US.
Mr Staunton argues that all undocumented Irish, no matter how long they have lived in the US and whether or not they have US-born children, should be given the opportunity to live and work legally in the country.
While the details of the programme are still being ironed out, an estimated 5m people of some 11m undocumented, mostly from Mexico and Central America, are likely to be allowed to live and work in the US free from the threat of deportation.
They will be given the right to reside and work in the country initially for two years. Those eligible to apply will have lived in the US for a number of years and have US-born children.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, widely known as the Dreamer programme, will be extended.
It is widely speculated among immigrant support groups that the Dreamer programme, also introduced via executive action, will be used as a template for the new rules, at least in part.
Dreamers, immigrants who arrived in the US as children, are allowed to leave the country and return, but under strict rules. They must apply to the Department of Homeland Security and the visit has to be for education, employment or urgent humanitarian reasons, not just a holiday.
The number of undocumented Irish is estimated at 50,000.
Meanwhile in a campaign dominated by immigration, the Ukip candidate is the strong favourite to win a byelection in the UK, with a victory for Nigel Farage’s party dealing another wounding
blow for David Cameron .