ILIR chairman Niall O’Dowd, vice-chairman Ciaran Staunton, executive director Kelly Fincham, and the group’s consultant Bruce Morrison met Gillespie to discuss a limited immigration reform package that could include an Irish element among its provisions.
“We discussed a number of options including a bilateral treaty like the one between the U.S. and Australia,” Staunton told the Echo.
He said the meeting last for about a half hour and took place in the West Wing.
“This is the first time that we have formally asked for help for the undocumented Irish,” Staunton said.
He said that Gillespie, whose father immigration from Donegal, was sympathetic during the meeting that had been arranged by Morrison.
Morrison has been ILIR’s main contact with Washington legislators in recent months.
“He’s the one man who has actually passed immigration legislation,” Staunton said of the former Connecticut representative.
The White House meeting took place against the backdrop of reports surfacing of another death of an undocumented Irish immigrant who did not, or could not, secure medical assistance.
John Thompson, 34, from Garvagh County Derry, died in Minnesota in December where he had been working illegally for seven years.
The dead man’s father is reported as saying that his son delayed medical treatment because he feared being deported. The cause of death was pancreatitis.
Galway native Eddie Treacy recently died his in apartment bed in Boston. Reports again indicated that he did not seek needed treatment because of his lack of legal status.
Meanwhile, the ILIR visit to the White House is certain to focus extra attention on the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day visit to Washington by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
There have been recent publicly aired differences of view on how to proceed with efforts to secure legalization for thousands of undocumented Irish between ILIR and the Irish government.