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Last Updated: Friday, 10 August 2007, 05:48 GMT 06:48 UK
Bush 'committed to illegal Irish'
New York
Many Irish immigrants settle in New York
President Bush is committed to dealing with the issue of illegal Irish immigrants in America, the US consul for Northern Ireland has said.

The failure of recent legislation which would have allowed illegal immigrants who had left the US to return means many are afraid to visit home.

US consul Dean Pittman said the president wanted to resolve the issue.

"People from Ireland have played a tremendous role in building our country," he said.

"But, at the same time we have to regulate in a way so that people aren't taken advantage of.

"So people can come to the United States and have the benefit of those protections legal citizens get. Unfortunately right now many people come over who are not in that status."

It is estimated that more than 10 million people are living illegally in the United States - and about 25,000 of those are from an Irish background.

There are fears that stronger immigration controls proposed by the US government could penalise the so-called "undocumented Irish".

Londonderry Boxer John Duddy is among a range of people campaigning for the Irish in America.

"The Irish fans have come out in support of me in my fight, so I am going to come out and support them 100% in their fight.

"Hopefully it will come through in the end," he said.

Paul McCormack, a senior New York policeman who grew up in Donegal, says Americans want to see the issue dealt with too.

"I would like to see America give a little bit back to the Irish immigrants because you are talking health care and other issues where illegal immigrants might not get the same treatment," he said.

Paul McCormack
Paul McCormack wants to see Irish immigrants given more rights

"In law enforcement, sometimes they are scared to report crimes.

"You would hope that they would become legal where they can get all the advantages of being a citizen of America."

SDLP leader Mark Durkan has also been campaigning on their behalf.

"What we have to do is make sure that legislation gets through that allows those people to continue to lead productive lives, but to do it in ways that allows them to engage with their families back home, people can't do that at the minute," the Foyle MP said.

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