In the wake of the death of Irish immigrant Darren O’Donnell, Irish immigration centers in New York are calling for all the undocumented not to hesitate to seek medical help if they are injured.
O’Donnell, 32, an Athlone, County Westmeath native and an undocumented construction worker in N.Y., suffered fatal injuries after being attacked in a Staten Island park, the Irish Echo reported last week.
He did not, however, seek out medical attention and did not report the incident to the police, which ultimately resulted in his untimely death.
In response to the tragedy, the Aisling Irish Community Center in Yonkers, N.Y. is reiterating advice they’ve previously given to undocumented immigrants “not to be afraid to come forward when a crime has been committed against them.”
“The police are here to serve and protect us,” Orla Kelleher, executive director of the Aisling Center, told IrishCentral. “Just as if you have a medical concern, the hospitals and doctors have a duty of care to look after somebody regardless of their immigration status.”
The Emerald Isle Immigration Center of Queens, N.Y. similarly said in a published report that they are working to get the message out to every undocumented Irish immigrant in New York City that they “should not be afraid of seeking help from the police or emergency medical services,” said Siobhan Dennehy, executive director of the Center.
Kelleher says the Aisling Center has only ever had positive experiences with both the police and hospitals, both of which have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in cases regarding undocumented immigrants.
“This proves that people should not be afraid to come forward,” she said. “The police have done everything within their power to serve and protect us without any fear of a person’s status coming against them. They have always abided by their ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy.”
O’Donnell was eventually treated for his injuries in the Richmond University Hospital in Staten Island, and was transferred to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, where he died from his injuries on May 16.
When asked why an undocumented immigrant might not immediately seek medical attention for injuries or report an incident to the police, Kelleher said: “I think some people prefer to ignore it in the hope that the problem will go away, rather than dealing with an issue, which can become as serious as fatal, in this case.”
Kelleher’s hypothesis corresponds to the Athlone community’s description of O'Donnell. One Athlone Woman told the Echo that the Irish immigrant was quiet, and “not the kind of person to make a big deal of things.”
O’Donnell’s remains were sent to Westmeath, where he was interred after a funeral in St. Mary’s Church in Athlone.
More details of the Irish immigrant’s death will soon be released by the Medical Examiner for the City of New York.
Meanwhile, the Richmond County District Attorney’s office, which covers Staten Island, has stated its intentions to further investigate O’Donnell’s death.