An Irish immigration counselor in Boston has said fear among the undocumented Irish in the US has reached new heights.
The deportation case of 19-year-old Galway-born Dylan O’Riordan has added to the fear among the undocumented Irish in the US, according to an immigration, detention and US citizenship counselor at the Irish Pastoral Centre in Boston.
On Wednesday, the story of O’Riordan, who has lived undocumented in the US for seven years since his parents brought him to live in Boston aged 12, added to the increasing number of cases of Irish people being detained by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Speaking to "Morning Ireland" on RTÉ Radio 1, Kieran O'Sullivan of the Irish Pastoral Centre in Boston claimed that O’Riordan’s case was just one of a number that has stoked fears among the undocumented Irish to a height he has never previously witnessed.
President Trump’s promise to clamp down on illegal immigration, the increase in the number of Irish people deported from last year (to 34 from 26 in 2016), and the surge in the number of detentions has greatly upset for many of immigrant families, O’Sullivan stated.
Furthermore, those people who violate the Visa Waiver program, under which most Irish people enter the US, means that an undocumented Irish person not entitled to an appearance in an immigration court if apprehended by ICE. Although the number of Irish people deported was up in 2017, the total number deported did not hit 53, the number of Irish people deported in 2010 when President Obama was in office.
This is a very worrying time for many Irish citizens in America and for their families at home. https://t.co/hvQQfUQG5a— Irish Undocumented (@IRLUndocumented) January 23, 2018
O’Riordan’s case is a common one. He traveled to the US under a 90-day holiday visa but remained beyond the visa limit. He was 12-years-old at the time. As a result, he is subject to almost immediate deportation, although that means he can be detained in jail for up to five weeks while paperwork is processed. O'Riordan's parents both have green cards, which they acquired when they lived in the US before his birth. O’Riordan is married and has an American-born daughter. His wife plans to move to Ireland with O'Riordan, but hopes that he can petition for a green card to return to the US in the near future.
The 34 undocumented Irish deported in 2017 are a tiny number compared with the 128,765 Mexicans ejected, but in Boston's close-knit Irish community, the wave of arrests is big news. https://t.co/aFYlxwMJuD— NPR (@NPR) January 22, 2018
O’Sullivan blames cases like this on the failure of the US government to enact proper immigration reform that would see pathways to citizenship for people such as O’Riordan who did not intend to break the law.
"We would see comprehensive immigration reform as being the answer to the problems we are facing today," he told RTÉ.
"The majority of the undocumented Irish here work hard, they pay taxes and they're only looking to make a better life for themselves and their families and this notion that's out there, that they're a threat to the country, is nonsense."
After a three-day government shutdown last weekend over the issue of immigration reform, in particular, the establishment of a path to citizenship for Dreamers – those who were brought to the US as children by their parents – seems a possibility. President Trump has suggested that these 1.8 million immigrants could be granted the means to become citizens in return for reductions in other areas of immigration and funding for a border wall between the US and Mexico and increased security on the US border with Canada. The deal would also end the visa diversity lottery and put a stop to family reunification.
While fear among the Irish is growing, several of the reported cases of deportation of undocumented Irish involved people who had an outstanding criminal charge or arrest warrant.
In June 2017, well-known Boston Irish figure John Cunningham was picked up by ICE and removed from the country. While Donegal-born Cunningham was initially applauded as a fine community leader and his detainment shocked the Irish community in Boston, it later emerged that Cunningham had a warrant issued for his arrest. The warrant was issued in 2014 after he was accused of not carrying out electrical repairs in a house for which he had been prepaid $1,300.
In March 2017, an undocumented man from Galway was arrested by ICE when they carried out a raid on his residence in the Boston suburb of Quincy. He was already due in court to face charges of drunk driving and related charges. Another Irishman, from Co. Antrim, was also held for deportation in November 2017 amid accusations that he was involved in gun-running for the IRA. The FBI investigated the gun-running claims but found no reason to arrest him. They informed ICE, however, and the immigration authorities arrested him.
On Wednesday, the Department of Justice once again threatened sanctuary cities in the hope of creating more instances such as this last case where ICE will be informed if an undocumented immigrant is apprehended by the police or appears in court.
The 23 sanctuary cities, including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, were threatened with subpoenas if they fail to provide documents to show whether local law enforcement officers are sharing information with federal immigration authorities.
Outlined by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, it is the latest effort to punish those districts who seek to protect their undocumented workers. Several city mayors condemned the threat including New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who deemed the move a "racist assault on our immigrant communities."
"It doesn't make us safer," de Blasio said in a tweet posted following the Justice announcement. "And it violates America's core values."
Some facts @realDonaldTrump should know about his hometown:— Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) January 24, 2018
•55% of NYC business owners are immigrants.
•45% of NYC’s labor force is made up of foreign-born workers.
•34% of workers in NYC’s tech sector were immigrants in 2016.
•58% of NYC's kids have immigrant parents.
“You can threaten subpoenas, you can threaten arrests, but we will keep fighting for the Constitution,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, explaining how undocumented immigrant communities often help law enforcement find suspects, a trust that would be lost between these groups and the authorities if they felt they were going to be reported to ICE for doing so and put their own future in the US in jeopardy.
What did you make of yesterday’s Dreamers deal? Should sanctuary cities hand over information on undocumented immigrants? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section, below.