In recent months immigration centers across America have been facing the same question of "How can I reactivate my green card", from Irish who gave up their green card and residency to return to what they hoped would be a better life in Ireland.
These questions are being posed by those who should be enjoying their lives. One recent returnee to New York had decided to come back at 63-years of age hoping to reestablish the life he had left behind a few years earlier. Many more are in their forties and fifties.
Ronnie Millar, of the Irish International Immigrant Center (IIIC) in Boston spoke of the growing trend of those who are trying to return to live in America.
“There is definitely an emerging trend of people trying to make their way back ‘home’ to America in recent months, as the Ireland that many immigrants returned home to in recent years was a vast contrast to the one they remember.
“This is hard for them to handle both emotionally and at times it is not financially viable to live in Ireland,” he added.
Kathleen Flavin, an immigration attorney based in Boston, reiterated the startling facts that the average age of immigrants is now gearing towards people in their late thirties and forties.
These are people who who have relinquished their green cards and returned to what they thought was a prosperous Ireland but sadly, in many cases, this wasn’t true.
One big problem which faced and faces those who gave gave up their legal immigrant status and returned to Ireland was that returning Irish emigrants were refused social welfare payments because they had not been living in Ireland for the two years before they made their claims.
The enforcement of an 'habitual residency' requirement was also a serious barrier that many older people would not have been aware of prior to leaving America. This was originally designed to stop welfare tourism from other European countries.
Millar himself was one of these immigrants who returned home to live in Ireland in 2005 having spent 11 years living in America. He said ‘homesickness’ was a major part of it. He wanted his children to spend more time with their grandparents and this is a common cause for many other immigrants.
However, the economic climate in Ireland meant living there was not a ‘viable’ option and he made his return to the US in 2009.
“The emotional whirlwind of trying to return to live in America is something else, especially when you have two young children,” he added.
Irish Immigration services in Chicago report similar stories of people in their fifties trying to re-enter America in the hope of rebuilding the life the left behind.
One family who wished to stayed anonymous told of how they had moved home to Ireland in the 1980s after their children were born in America. When the economy in Ireland went bust following the collapse of the Celtic Tiger, the family decided to returned to live stateside as the now adult children were all working in the US.
However, their father had given up his green card and faced a huge battle to re-enter America to be with his children, who were all born in Boston. The family said they had faced discrimination in the battle to enable the father to return to live in America.
Immigration Counselors in Chicago added that it is very sad to be contacted by someone who has given up a green card in the hope of a better life and now they return slightly more ‘broken.’
“I think people are concerned about trying to re enter.” she says.
“Many fathers are being forced to return and work to support their families back home in Ireland,
“It’s not a lifestyle choice but necessary. It’s incredibly hard on families.”
Many families would have seen this as a short term solution, but the way the economy and other factors have panned out, this life has become a reality for many Irish American families.
Those most affected by this now only get home to see their families perhaps two or three times a year. Many have young families and it seems to be the easiest option for one parent to leave, and not uproot the entire family.