President Obama's immigration executive action: Many of the specifics have yet to be solidified, but here’s what we do know.Getty Images

In the wake of President Obama’s executive action on immigration last week there has been jubilation from those undocumented Irish who will be eligible to receive amnesty, strong disappointment from those who will not be able to apply, and many questions about what all of this means.

Some of the confusion – particularly around the question of travel to and from Ireland – has been so widespread that the Irish government issued an alert warning people that they will not suddenly be able to spend Christmas in Ireland with their extended families without fear of prosecution upon reentering the U.S.

Government officials from both the US and Ireland, immigration lawyers, activists and community leaders have been working to clarify any misconceptions and explain as best they can. In a press conference at the Consulate General of Ireland in New York on Monday they took questions from the media and from community representatives, urging preparation and patience as many of the intricacies are still being finalized.

The following are the five biggest questions the undocumented Irish are asking right now, and their answers to date. The Coalition of Irish Immigrant Centers throughout the US will be holding informational sessions in the weeks and months to come. For a full list, scroll to the bottom of this article.

1. Who is eligible and what will they get?

The White House estimates that as many as 4.9 million of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US will be eligible to live and work in the US without fear of being deported . They include: Young people who came here before they turned 16 and have been present here for at least five years starting January 10, 2010 and the undocumented parents of US citizens or legal permanent residents who have been living in the country since January 10, 2010. There are no deadlines to apply yet, but those who are eligible are being encouraged to apply as soon as possible, as each application will be reviewed individually.

2. Does this mean undocumented people will be able to travel outside of the US?

One of the most important questions for the undocumented Irish has been that of travel - specifically, travel to Ireland. Many Irish people who moved to the US undocumented have never been able to travel back to Ireland, missing important family moments such as weddings and funerals because the risk of getting caught while trying to re-enter the US is too great.

It is understood that those eligible for protection under the executive action will be able to apply for advance parole, which will allow them to travel outside of and back into the US safely in special circumstances.

Irish groups are lobbying strongly on the travel issue and lawyer and chairman of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center Brian O’Dwyer expressed optimism that progress is being made on this front. At the same time, another speaker cautioned, those who will be protected under the executive action on immigration must not anticipate holding the same rights as green card holders in terms of travel and beyond.

3. When will I be able to apply?

Those eligible under the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will be able to apply approximately 90 days after President Obama’s November 20, 2014 announcement. Those eligible under the new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program will be able to apply approximately 180 days after the November 20, 2014 announcement. .

4. What can I do in the meantime?

Get application materials together. While the full details of the application process are still unknown, required materials will include: some form of identification (passport, drivers license or birth certificate, etc.) Proof of relationship to a current US citizen or legal permanent resident, and proof of continuous residence in the United States over the last five years or more will also be needed.

Unfortunately, with as many as 4.9 million people potentially eligible, there will be those who try to capitalize on all of the uncertainty surrounding the issue with fraud, scams and swindling. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) warns of the dangers of working with unauthorized immigration law practitioners, which often cost people looking to apply inordinate time and money. Before working with anyone on your application, be sure to check out the USCIS guide to avoiding scammers.

5. How risky is this? Will I, my family or my employer get in trouble?

Applying will involve bringing forth information many of the undocumented have been forced to keep hidden – likely an uneasy experience. Some of those interviewed have expressed concern that their identities would be revealed once Obama leaves office and a new president takes over.

However, as the speakers at the Consulate pointed out, the manpower for the DHS to pursue all these cases is “simply not there.” In fact, part of President Obama’s rationale for the executive action is that only enough money has been approved to focus on the detention and deportation of some 400,000 immigrants. What’s more, historically there have not been “look backs” on employers who have hired undocumented workers. .

Application Information provided will be protected from disclosure to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for the purpose of immigration enforcement proceedings. However, if an applicant’s background check raises red flags or past criminal activity, USCIS is then obligated to refer them to ICE if they find any past felonies in their background check. What remains uncertain is the degree of offences that will render someone ineligible. USCIS has stated that the background checks will include 10-print fingerprintings and 10 primary name and alias name checks against databases maintained by the Department of Homeland Security and other federal government agencies.

Further information can be found on the USCIS website. The immigration center meeting schedule is as follows:

New York

Aisling Irish Community Center, Emerald Isle Immigration Center & New York Irish Center

*Monday, December 1st at 6:00pm

St Barnabas High School Auditorium (H.S. Chapel) Entrance @ E. 241st & McLean Ave

*Tuesday, December 2nd at 6:00pm

Sunnyside Community Center

4331 39th St, Sunnyside, NY, 11104

*Wednesday, December 3rd at 6:00pm

St Sebastian Parish Center

39-60 57th St, Woodside, NY 11377

(Bilingual Attorney Kelly Becker-Smith Spanish/English)


Irish Pastoral Centre Boston

*Tuesday, December 2nd at 5:30pm

Banshee Restaurant

934 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester, MA

Irish International Immigrant Center

*Wednesday, November 26th at 12:30pm

Irish International Immigration Center

100 Franklin St., Lower Level, Boston, MA

(Enter at 201 Devonshire Street)

*Tuesday, December 2nd at 10:00am

Irish International Immigration Center

100 Franklin St., Lower Level, Boston, MA

(Enter at 201 Devonshire Street)


Irish Immigration Center of Greater Philadelphia

*Monday, November 24th at 6:30pm

The Irish Immigration Center

7 South Cedar Lane, Upper Darby, PA 19802


Chicago Irish Immigrant Support

*Monday, November 24th at 7:00pm

Irish American Heritage Center

4626 N. Knox Avenue, Chicago, IL 60630

* Tuesday, November 26th at 7:00pm

Gaelic Park

6119 147th St., Oak Forest, IL 60452


Irish Immigration Pastoral Center San Francisco

*Tuesday, November 25th at 7:00pm

United Irish Cultural Center

2700 45th Avenue, San Francisco, CA

Irish Outreach San Diego

For more information call or email the center or 619.291.1630


Seattle Irish Immigrant Support Group

For more information call or email the center or 425.244.5247