Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern says he hopes the U.S. Congress will approve President George Bush's proposals for immigration reform.
Mr. Ahern, in Washington Friday, said the proposals would mean a great deal to many Irish men and women.
There are an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 illegal Irish immigrants in the United States. Prime Minister Ahern said he hopes illegal Irish immigrants will soon to be able to, in his words, "step away from the shadows and into the sunshine."
Mr. Ahern presented Mr. Bush with a bowl of shamrock in celebration of the Irish national holiday, St. Patrick's Day.
President Bush thanked Mr. Ahern for the gift, an annual tradition between the two nations, and said Irish Americans have been important to the nation's history. He said Irish Americans are reminders that the U.S. is a nation of immigrants.
The two leaders are scheduled to meet Friday with British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Peter Hain and the head negotiator for Sinn Fein, Martin McGuinness. Sinn Fein is the political arm of the Irish Republican Army.
The Irish prime minister makes a yearly visit to the United States around St. Patrick's Day, March 17. He has participated in other meetings this week with U.S. politicians and Americans of Irish heritage.