McAllister received a letter from the Department of Homeland Security last week ordering him to appear at its office in Newark on the 25th to “surrender for removal.” McAllister, a native of Belfast who has lived in New Jersey for 20 years with his children, left his home after it was attacked with gunfire by Loyalists in 1988. McAllister is a former member of the paramilitary group the INLA.
Speaking to the Irish Voice on Tuesday, McAllister said that “there isn’t a day that does by when we don’t think about the case, and now it’s more urgent than ever.”
“All I want is closure,” he added. “I love America, my family loves America and all the freedoms this county has given us. We just want to be able to stay and keep on doing what we are doing.”
McAllister’s quest for political asylum has been in the U.S. courts for more than 20 years. Each year around this time he receives notice from the Department of Homeland Security informing him of a grant of prosecutorial discretion that allows him to remain in the U.S. for the next 12 months. This year’s letter was chillingly different.
McAllister points out that since leaving the North he’s been a staunch supporter of the peace process, including the Good Friday Agreement and the leadership of Sinn Fein. “We have moved on,” McAllister says of the days when he was a member of the INLA.
“I of course know many people in the North of Ireland who have suffered. We just want to move on. I am very supportive of all the work that Senator George Mitchell did in the North.”
McAllister says he and his legal team headed by Eamonn Dornan in New York have received word from the North’s RCMP watchdog agency that the investigation into the shotgun attack on his home in Belfast has been reopened. He has also been made aware of declassified military documents indicating that the attack on his home resulted from collusion between Loyalists and the North’s security forces.
Read more: McAllister's son deported
Why the Department of Homeland Security seeks to deport McAllister now is a question that he has no answers for. He owns a successful masonry business in New Jersey and recently opened Wolfe Tone’s Irish Pub and Kitchen in Manhattan. McAllister, who lost his wife Bernadette to cancer 12 years ago, is also actively involved in several local Irish organizations including the United Irish Counties. He marched with the group on St. Patrick’s Day in New York, and served as an usher for morning Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. In 2010, McAllister served as an aide in the parade to that year’s grand marshal, then New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
“This is awful to endure this uncertainty after all these years on a daily basis,” McAllister says.
His two older children are currently availing of President Obama’s executive order, DACA, which allows for deferred action for those brought to the U.S. as minors with a parent. McAllister also has a four-year-old U.S.-born son, “the light of my life,” he says.
His legal team is seeking relief that would return his case to the Board of Immigration Appeals before the April 25 appearance date in Newark. But time is of the essence.
“I love this country and I’ve always done the right thing since me and my family came here,” said McAllister, whose case has attracted substantial political support in Congress from legislators such as Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Charles Schumer of New York.
“I’m asking the Irish American community to continue to support me and my children in our desire to stay in America for good.”