Should I stay or should I go?


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As an immigrant, the shrilling sound of your phone ringing in the early hours of the morning usually means one thing.

Ireland is calling. As you reach for your phone, a flicker of fear races through your mind -- please don’t let it be bad news.

With justified trepidation, bad news does eventually arrive from home. There has been an accident or, even worse, a loved one has passed away.

As if dealing with overwrought emotions was not enough, the many undocumented here in the U.S., also face the ultimate decision.  Should I stay, or should I go?

Queens resident Marie Foy (not a real name; all names have been changed in the story to protect identities) has lived in the U.S. illegally for 14 years. Upon hearing of a family member’s death, she admits she hesitated about what to do.

“The single hardest event to deal with was my grandmother’s death,” Foy told the Irish Voice.

“She and I were always very close, and the hardest thing I've had to do was to make the choice to stay in New York and not to just hop on the plane.

“But as I struggled with making that decision, all I could hear was her voice saying ‘Your life is in New York, you're happy there, don't look back, you have your life to live,’ so she kind of helped me make my decision.”

Currently there are an estimated 50,000 Irish men and women living in the U.S. undocumented.  With Irish emigration on the rise, more and more Irish citizens are opting to stay here in the U.S. illegally.

Part of this new wave of immigration, Aisling Connor has been living in the Bronx for just over a year. Working as a receptionist, while she hasn’t been faced with a family crisis in Ireland yet, it’s something that is always on her mind.

“It's great to be able to live a life out here that I could never have at home because of the economy in Ireland, but it could all end if I ever got a call from home,” she reflects.

When Queens resident Deirdre Doherty got the bad news that her sister-in-law had passed away, she made the decision to travel home for the funeral after four years of her undocumented life in New York.

“A funeral is a trip you have to make,” Doherty told the Irish Voice.

“I made the choice to go home to my sister-in-law’s funeral. For my brother’s sake I felt like I needed to be there to comfort him, and nothing is as important as family.”

After going home to Ireland for the funeral, Doherty ran the risk of been denied reentry to the U.S. She took the chance and made it, but now three years later she recalls the nerves that consumed her before clearing U.S. immigration in Dublin Airport.

“The nerves were on overload,” she admitted. “I sat at the bar for nearly an hour to build up courage drinking a brandy and I don't even drink brandy!

“I just watched the immigration officers thinking about which one looked the nicest and wouldn't give me hassle.

“Thoughts were flying through my head -- what would I do if I didn't get back in and my boyfriend would be still in New York?  I started thinking about would he move home if I got stopped?”