Should I stay or should I go?


For Doherty, the gamble paid off. She is now living here for the past seven years.

Despite this, she told the Irish Voice, missing family events is not something that gets easier.

The upcoming wedding of her only sister next March is another family occasion where her absence will be duly noted.

“Only yesterday my sister, sister-in-law and mom went shopping for the dress and I had to hear all about it on the phone,” Doherty said.

“I had to say no to being bridesmaid which is heartbreaking, but thankfully she understands being the great sister she is.

“Missing out again doesn't really get easier, just something that I have to accept as I was the one who made the choice to live here illegally.”

Kieran Kelly, who works as a machine operator in the Bronx, says that the birth of his first niece was especially hard.

“Family means a lot and not seeing her grow up is hard,” he told the Irish Voice.

Living here illegally since September 2008, Kelly says if he wasn’t here in the U.S. he would be in another country.

“At the moment the way things are in Ireland it doesn’t seem that my decision to stay here illegally was that of a bad one,” says Kelly.

“I’m sure that if I wasn’t here that I probably would be with a lot of my mates who have all relocated to Australia.”

Patricia Collins originally from Roscommon, says that if bad news does arrive, sometimes loved ones at home will give an edited version of events.

“Anyone will tell you that if they receive bad news from home it’s only about 85% of the truth,” says Collins.

“Half the time they forget to tell you the remaining 15% because they feel like they are protecting you from the worst, as you’re in America that you'll not know the difference.”

Collins, who works in a company’s accounting department in Manhattan, admits that she has missed countless family occasions since becoming undocumented five years ago.

“Obviously birthdays, funerals, communions, christenings and anniversaries are a given,” she told the Irish Voice.

“The last five years have just flown by and it’s crazy when you actually sit down and look at the amount of significant things you've missed out on because it’s so easy to forget, especially when you weren't there to celebrate the occasion,” she added.

“It kind of opens your eyes that time hasn't stood still at home like you wish to believe.”

A bar manager on the Upper East Side, when Sarah Kearney’s sister phoned her from their home in Cork to announce her engagement, despite being overjoyed, she admits she had mixed emotions.

“I was thrilled for them, but yet a part of me was filled with sadness that I couldn’t be there to celebrate with them,” says Kearney, who has lived in New York illegally for almost six years.

With a brother in Florida who is also undocumented, two Kearney family members would be missing from the family wedding in Ireland. But chatting to her sister on Skype one day, the budding bride revealed the family had decided to take their wedding plans to the U.S.

“They decided to cancel all plans to get married at home and come here to New York just so my brother and I could be a part of their special day, something I will treasure forever,” Kearney shared.

“We had the most amazing two weeks when several family members decided to join in the celebrations, most of whom I hadn't seen in five years.”

Kearney, who originally came to New York on a year-long career break, says that missing family events is just one of the hardships she endures as a result of her choice to stay here illegally.

“The decisions and struggles I face choosing to remain in this country as an illegal immigrant effect me on an ongoing basis,” she told the Irish Voice.

“I dread the day I have to make that 'unspoken' decision to go home for a sickness or bereavement.

“It's something I try not to think about but as long as I remain here I am aware of it,” says Kearney.

Choosing to remain in the U.S. illegally is not an easy decision for any person. Most are fully aware of the potential repercussions of their choice. But for many their final decision boils down to a choice between their new existence in the U.S. and their old life in Ireland.

Not being able to return to the place you grew up is one of the biggest sacrifices associated with being undocumented, a luxury they surrender but constantly question.

“I've missed out on family life for six years. A little thing like walking in your door at home makes you sometimes question your decision to stay here,” admitted Kearney.