By Ray O'Hanlon
Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin, in New York for the opening of the United General Assembly, visited several Irish immigration centers while bearing news that Irish government funding would not evaporate despite the current economic downturn.
Martin stopped off last week at centers in Yonkers and Philadelphia. The $2.3 million in funding that he announced is to be distributed to centers from coast to coast.
Martin, Speaking to reporters in New York, described the latest round of funding as evidence of the ongoing commitment of the Irish government to the Irish American community, and of a wider engagement with the "global Irish family."
Asked about recent figures showing that net migration from Ireland was now matching 1989 levels, Martin said that there was "no evidence" that immigration specifically to the U.S. was near the levels of that time.
And he warned that any Irish considering a move to the U.S. had to be especially careful that they were in compliance with current immigration regulations.
Martin said that the current situation regarding immigration reform in the U.S. was very much a matter of waiting to see what happens.
The government, he said, was still looking at bilateral arrangements with the U.S. including an E3 visa program. The government, he added, was "very anxious" to avoid "a new generation of illegals" and the "heartbreak and trauma" that resulted from such an outcome.
It was, he said, the Irish government's obligation to tell the truth with regard to coming to America without proper documentation.
The government's message, he said, was "don't take a chance."
Martin described the expanded U.S. J1 student working visa program, negotiated by the government, as a "platform" from which to reach for other levels of legal residence, including the H1 visa program.
Martin said that while there was no clear indication of a large scale arrival of new Irish in the U.S., he acknowledged that there was noticeable evidence of some Irish making the move to Canada.