Before he leaves office in January, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) wants to give Irish citizens access to thousands of unused U.S. work visas.
Under the E-3 program, a total of 10,500 visas are allotted exclusively to Australia, but with new legislation pushed by Ryan, Irish nationals would have access to any that are unused.
Critics are not taking kindly to the outgoing speaker’s gesture toward people from a single, relatively wealthy European nation while migrants in more dire circumstances ― refugees, asylum-seekers and young children ― are being forcibly kept out of the country, detained and deported.
Ryan himself has blocked efforts to pass the Dream Act, which would provide a path toward permanent residency for many young people who were illegally brought to the U.S. as children and grew up here.
The outgoing speaker, whose ancestors came to America from Ireland to escape famine in the 1850s, has always had a soft spot for the country. He even said he hopes to one day become to U.S. ambassador to Ireland.
The Irish government is backing the bill, according to documents obtained by Politico. As part of a deal, Ireland would expand academic exchange programs and make is easier for qualifying Americans to retire in the European Union nation.
Ryan’s Ireland visa legislation passed the House easily on Nov. 28 and is up for a Senate vote next week.