Eric Zhi Ying Xue’s primary school is calling for action as the student, born in Ireland, could be deported to China.
A nine-year-old Wicklow schoolboy, Eric Zhi Ying Xue, is facing deportation to China despite being born in and growing up in Ireland.
In response, Eric’s primary school, St. Cronan’s School in Bray, County Wicklow, has created a public petition imploring Ireland’s Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan to reverse the deportation order facing Eric and his mother.
“This is a humanitarian issue,” says the public petition, “Eric urgently needs your support.”
Launched on Tuesday, the online petition spread quickly and already has over 25,000 signatures in support, closing in on its goal of 35,000 signatures in less than a day.
Eric’s mother Leena Mei Mei Xue arrived in Ireland illegally 12 years ago. Despite several attempts, she was never successful in obtaining permanent Irish citizenship. In 2015, she was served a deportation order, and her most recent effort to appeal it this past June failed.
On Wednesday morning, Eric’s mother presented her son's birth certificate to Irish immigration authorities as per their request. The authorities informed Eric’s mother that they would be preparing her and Eric’s travel documentation for China shortly. She was told to return to Garda National Immigration Bureau again in two weeks.
As part of a 2004 Irish constitutional referendum, children born in Ireland to foreign national parents do not have a constitutional right to Irish citizenship. As such, 9-year-old Eric is not a citizen of Ireland.
Having not been born in China, Eric is also not a Chinese citizen, meaning he would not be granted the same access to Chinese healthcare and education should be deported there.
Maeve Tierney, principal of Eric’s school St. Cronan’s, said the school has been working privately with Eric’s family for two years regarding the situation.
“He’s an extremely able child,” Tierney said to The Irish Times. “He’s mature, sensible and well adjusted.”
“He has a group of lovely friends and is very well integrated into the school and local community. He plays football, he does all things that boys do. He’s very much a part of Bray and the community.”
Tierney also acknowledged Eric’s mother’s legal status in Ireland: “Yes, she is not here legally. But we want the Minister to use his discretion. This is about what is right and humane. He is an innocent victim in all of this.”
Speaking with RTE, Tierney said, "He has never left this country. His entire network of friends is here.”
Niamh Corkery, Eric’s teacher, said the young boy’s classmates were upset and confused by the ordeal.
Minister Flanagan has not yet publicly commented on the matter.