“I was only here illegally a few months. I had a visa for a few years but it ran out so instead of going back to my life in Ireland I decided to stay. I really and truly thought in my heart of hearts that we would be getting some sort of visa shortly after that visit to Washington,” Bernie said.
Bernie, who works in an office in Yonkers, is having a hard time being undocumented.
“I have been home once in the last five years and that’s it,” she said.
“I’m missing so much, but even now if I wanted to return I couldn’t. There are no jobs available so what would I do?”
Bernie still holds out hope of some sort of legislation in the coming years.
“I’ve a good feeling that Obama will come good in the end and get something passed in the next few years, maybe before I’m 50,” she laughed.
An Irish family from the south of the country is moving back across the Atlantic despite the recession.
The O’Connors have four kids and want them to have their family around as they grow up.
Niamh, who was also in Washington in 2006, told the Irish Voice that her youngest is about to start school in September, and a decision was made at Christmas to move back to Ireland.
“We can’t do it anymore,” said Niamh.
“We’ve been here for nearly 10 years and it’s just not on anymore. All the kids’ cousins are at home in Ireland as are their grandparents, so enough is enough.”
The O’Connors have “enough saved for a years worth of living expenses” and hope by this time next year to be set up at home.
“All we are hearing from everyone is that we are mad to be going back to Ireland, but as I say to them, try living in our shoes. We don’t have driver’s licenses, it’s getting harder and harder to get a job that is off the books because I don’t have a Social Security number, and the children are getting to the age where they want to know their cousins so we are fully committed to our decision,” added Niamh.
Since the failure of the proposed comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2006 several of those who attended the ILIR rally in Washington, D.C. have left the U.S. Most have gone back to Ireland and some have gone to other countries where they were able to obtain a visa.
Most of those who left did so just before the bottom fell out of Ireland’s economy. Some have even returned to the U.S.
A returned couple, who are once again undocumented, declined to speak to the Irish Voice but said that although their heart is in Ireland, financially they had to come back so they could pay their hefty mortgage back home.
For a Co. Dublin couple living in New York for years, being undocumented wasn’t an option anymore. They had done it for eight years, and when it became clear that there was little hope of any resolution for their situation they moved back to Ireland and subsequently immigrated to Australia.
Samantha and Liam Melia spoke to the Irish Voice via Facebook.
The Melias were very active in ILIR and involved in organizing the Washington, D.C. rally.
“Leaving the U.S. after all that time and effort with ILIR was not an easy decision as a lot of risk was involved in what we did, but the truth is my biggest motivation factor was my age,” said 35-year-old Samantha, who left the U.S. three years ago.
“I simply felt that the way things were moving in Washington I would be expected to wait at least another two maybe three years. For me the sands of time on my life were running out and I was in the waiting place a long, long time so I held my breath and jumped.”
Samantha and Liam spent a year in Ireland before immigrating to Australia. Three weeks into their new life tragedy struck.
“Three weeks after moving to Australia my father died tragically at the young age 58. I was devastated,” recalls Samantha.
“I jumped on a plane home. I had the freedom to do that because I had a visa, I had the choice. Obviously this experience is greatly tied in to why I have no regrets about leaving America.”
Seeing how wonderful her life is now, Samantha feels the U.S. should shadow Australia’s visa giving.
“If the U.S. had the same immigration policy as Australia this issue would not exist for the Irish. When you apply here you are means tested, must be English speaking, have employer sponsorship, be a skilled laborer, be a certain age and have relatives in the country – all this earns you points for a visa,” she said.
“America needs to update its immigration policy, and the Irish government needs to man up and actively pursue a Irish immigration policy with the U.S., especially now.”