Last week the website DNAinfo released a map that showed how each neighborhood in New York City voted. It made for some interesting reading.
Some of the results were expected. For example, 79 percent of New Yorkers voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton for president, down from 81 percent for Barack Obama in 2012.
But what caught my eye was how many Irish American neighborhoods had clearly broken for Donald Trump. Far Rockaway was a tiny island of red in a sea of blue. So was Middle Village in Queens, and so was most of Staten Island.
Sunnyside and Woodside had stayed dependably blue this cycle, but they are a home to the arriving Irish, meaning those who have come here within a generation or two, and many of our currently Irish undocumented.
It’s estimated that there are 50,000 undocumented Irish people living in America now. By voting for Trump, it seems to me that many Irish American voters endorsed his anti-immigrant polices and pulled the ladder up on a path to citizenship for their vulnerable countrymen.
I know that’s controversial to say, but so are the anti-immigrant statements of the man they just passionately supported. On Sunday Trump was on TV vowing to deport two to three million of the undocumented, and failing to clarify exactly who he was talking about.
“What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records -- gang members, drug dealers, we have a lot of these people, probably two million, it could be even three million. We are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate,” Trump said.
“But we’re getting them out of our country. They’re here illegally.”
The Obama administration estimates that there are 1.9 million “removable criminal aliens” currently in the United States, and that number includes people who hold green cards and those who have temporary visas.
It also includes people who have been convicted of nonviolent crimes such as theft, not just felonies or gang-related violence. That leaves another one million to be accounted for. Who will they be?
The truth is that neither the Obama administration (which has set a record for deportations) nor the incoming Trump one has the budget or the manpower to enforce a three million people deportation push.
But for the undocumented that’s not the only threat. It’s the hostile climate that Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric creates that curtails their chances of making a decent life here. People are endlessly talking about a crackdown because Trump has been talking about one for 18 months.
Potential employers could be hit with biting legislation that makes it impossible to hire the undocumented some say; others say threats will be made to cut federal funding to “sanctuary” cities like New York if they refuse to help federal agents plan and carry out their immigration swoops.
In Queens, the most diverse borough in the world, the press was suddenly filled with reports of bias attacks and anti-immigrant incidents this week. In my own neighborhood I know of two hard working immigrants who had profanity filled versions of “you’re going home” shouted at them within three days of the election. Both are legally present in this country.
Because the GOP will the House, the Senate and the White House, it strengthens their hand when it comes to any potential actions on immigration they could take. Meanwhile, immigrants rights groups are telling the undocumented Irish not to panic.
Well it may be too early for hysteria, but the picture looks decidedly bleak for any kind of immigration reform, or even compromise, or indeed any political discussion that could help those 50,000 Irish out of the shadows. That means there are four or perhaps eight long years ahead with no change in fortune on the cards. Deadlock is the best we can hope for.
All our politicians have been conspicuous by their absence on this issue. Last week I wrote that immigration – and unspoken fear of Muslim immigration in particular – is retarding our politics and damaging our progress nationally, because behind our hostility to immigration reforms lies visceral fear.
Each time our Irish American community breaks towards anti-immigrant leaders like Trump, they curtail the dreams of our Irish undocumented, exiling them to low paid jobs, uncertain prospects, compromised lives.
So this November we voted to make the lives of the Irish living in the shadows here much harder, and we cannot claim otherwise. We voted our fears rather than our hopes.
Whatever happens to them in the next four years is on us.