Bridie Murphy, at the center of a tragic immigration snafu in Boston, is anxious to stand back from the firestorm that has erupted around her but she is deeply worried how people are perceiving her case.
The 80-year-old was stopped when entering the U.S. at Logan Airport andhad her green card confiscated. She was interrogated for over three hours.
She had lived back in Ireland for ten months with her son. Two other sons are in the U.S. army , one in the Middle East.
The elderly grandmother, who wears a pace maker and takes pills for high blood pressure, is said to be in a state of considerable anxiety about her unexpected change of fortune.
It has not helped that Murphy, who has lived exclusively in the United States with her American husband since 1979, has received a torrent of abuse from anti-immigrant forces on the internet, who have challenged her right to remain in the U.S. without hearing the details of her case.
"A lot of attention has been drawn to this case and Bridie is worried that an immigration backlash against her," Chris Lavery, an attorney who gives pro bono advice at The Irish Pastoral Center in Boston, told Irish Central.
"Bridie's a private person and she's also a bit overwhelmed. The fact that this became a big story so fast worries her. I have read on the blogs that people are asking why she didn't apply for citizenship. What they don't know is that U.S. citizenship is not that easy to obtain. You have to go through a complicated process to get it. You have to take tests. It's not that she didn't want citizenship, she has been here for many years, her husband and sons are U.S. citizens, and she didn't feel that needed it to prove she was herself. Now that this has happened she's become aware that she should have applied for it years ago. But she never made a choice not to do it."
Murphy has always paid her taxes, Lavery says, she’s a functioning member of the community (Murphy worked for the local Catholic school until just last year, 2009). She has held a green card since 1979 but she had been coming to the U.S. since the 1950's. Never did she imagine that the conditions of legal immigration here had changed so dramatically, nor did she reckon with the hardening of attitudes in recent years.
It turns out that any green card holder who has been out of the country for more than six months can be challenged about their intentions.
"Bridie made sure she got her green card, she followed through on that process in 1979," said Lavery. "At the age of 80 she wasn't aware that if she visited family in Ireland for six months she could be questioned about her residency and intentions when she returned to the U.S. Immigration officials didn't take the time to find out that’s her home and family, even her bank accounts were in the U.S. It's unbelievable."
Reflecting on the torrent of abuse she has received - some from fellow Irish Americans - Lavery said: "It sometimes amazes me how short some people's memories are. Our community is wonderful in coming together to support the Irish when they think it’s important. But a generation down the line and we tend to forget."
The two things that the public should learn from Murphy's plight is that it is difficult to obtain legal status in the United States, and that it has become even more difficult for people without status to come to the U.S. to work. It's just not obtainable anymore, Lavery says.
Lavery is hopeful that Murphy's predicament will be successfully resolved. "I feel when we bring this case to court and demonstrate how long Bridie has been here that they will let this case go away."