On Wednesday April 10th, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted what appears to have been an orchestrated raid in Massachusetts, taking into ICE custody a number of Irish immigrants.
Irish Pastoral Centre Chaplain Fr. John McCarthy and IPC pro bono attorney Chris Lavery in Boston are providing ongoing assistance to those in need of help and support.
IrishCentral has spoken to the wife of one of those arrested, a Co. Clare construction worker who has been in the U.S for 12 years.
She described how her husband left for work and she then heard the doorbell ring a few moments later. Outside were ICE agents with her husband in handcuffs. They wanted to search her house. She described the arrest of her husband and the impact on her two kids as traumatic.
She stated she had to show up at ICE headquarters herself and was unclear on what would happen to her and her children. Her husband has a successful business which employs several people.
Senior Irish political figures in Ireland have also become involved.
In a statement, the Irish Pastoral Center (IPC) in Boston said, ”It has come to our attention during some detentions recently that a number of Irish immigrants have been altering their passports using fake visa stamps to obtain drivers licenses.This may have been a factor in some detentions.”
“We recognize the need for changes to regulations allowing immigrants not yet in lawful status to apply for a drivers licenses, get tested and insured properly," said Chris Lavery, who fielded a number of calls on the subject on Wednesday morning.
“But we have always advised people not to alter or tamper with government documents in an attempt to convince US officials they are lawfully present in the US.”
The detentions have led to increased fear in the undocumented Irish community. Fr. John McCarthy, the IPC chaplain on the ground in New England and based in Boston, said, “I've been taking calls all morning. This is a terrible situation for those involved and for their families. Here we are close to immigration reform, and we still see Irish people facing weeks in US county jails awaiting their deportation.”
Each week Fr. McCarthy spends time visiting Irish immigrants in hospitals and prisons not just in Massachusetts but in other nearby states and he has made himself available to anyone who has a concern.
Generally immigrants taken into custody can spend up to six weeks in jail awaiting deportation from the U.S.
Irish immigrants who have questions on this and other related matters are welcome to attend the IPC legal clinic held on the first Tuesday of each month at The Banshee, 934 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester.
Immigrants who are worried can contact Kieran C. O Sullivan 617-265 5300 at the Irish Pastoral Centre.