They might get an insight into how an immigrant struggles to succeed in America, but when he does he becomes the very best kind of American, one only too ready to give back, provide employment, live out his Christian values.
That was what Irishman Pearse McDermott set out to do, but he now finds himself in a nightmare with immigration services this Independence Day because of his honesty.
As Cullen writes, McDermott had started his own carpentry company employing many Americans. He had met the love of his life, a nice Italian girl called Laura Cogliano. They married and he applied for legal status as he was entitled to. His lawyer told him to be completely honest.
That is when it all went wrong. McDermott had been arrested for smoking a joint in Ireland at age 18. He also admitted he had been in a bar fight as a much younger man. That constituted “moral turpitude” as explained to him by an immigration officer. There would be no marriage visa for Pearse McDermott.
So as Cullen writes, “As his father lay dying in Dublin last winter, Pearse McDermott was sitting in Braintree, torn between his family in Ireland and his family in America.
If he went back to Dublin, he wouldn’t be allowed back into America for at least 10 years.
In the end, his father made the decision for him. From his deathbed, he instructed Pearse to stay put.
“It still hurts,” Pearse McDermott was saying, rubbing his forehead after a long day working on a building site in South Boston. “I couldn’t bury my father. I have a wife, a house, a business. I couldn’t leave all that behind.”
McDermott came to America legally in 2002 but overstayed his visa. He had inhaled that American dream as all immigrants do and he longed to be part of it.
First he worked as a doorman, then made his way into construction. Soon he was flying, his American dream unfolding before him. There was a house, a business a beautiful wife and the hope of kids.
As Cullen wrote, it went back to that day 14 years ago when McDermott filled in his US embassy form to come to America.
Cullen wrote: “It goes back to Question B of the application he filled out 14 years ago to get a visa waiver to enter the US. It asked whether he had been arrested or convicted of an offense or crime involving “moral turpitude.”
Turns out that joint he got caught with when he was 18 years old fits the government’s definition of moral turpitude.
“I checked the no boxes on the whole thing,” Pearse McDermott said. “I wasn’t trying to hide anything.”
He even told them about a bar fight he got into in Ireland before he came to America. That honesty made things worse for him.
“They didn’t even know about the fight,” he said. “I told them about it. And now it’s being held against me.”
His lawyer, Dan Harrington, said McDermott has been a model non-citizen since. Not even a speeding ticket.
“He employs Americans,” Harrington said. “He’s the model immigrant story, a self-made man who has given back. Started a business. Pays his taxes. Bought a house.”
Because he smoked a joint and got into a bar fight where no one was injured the immigration authorities came to arrest him.
Of course this was not what President Obama’s executive order had intended. The president wanted the department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to focus on getting criminal aliens out of the country, not silly stuff like deporting pot smokers. That got shot down in court, of course.
Speaking of the immigration officer who arrested him but released him when he saw his case is on appeal, Pearse’s lawyer Dan Harrington stated.
“He was pretty good about it,” Harrington said of the ICE agent. “I’ve got to be honest, the people we’ve dealt with in the Boston CIS (Citizen and Immigration Services) have been great, very respectful.”
A source told them if they had a kid it was quite likely to go easier for them, but Pearse and Laura are having difficulty conceiving like so many others.
As Cullen noted, “Boston Globe reporter Maria Sacchetti recently showed ICE has released hardened criminals instead of deporting them back to their home countries. She found that between 2008 and 2012, as many as 30 percent of the more than 300 criminals released in New England had gone on to commit more serious crimes."
Deporting Pearse McDermott is an utterly inappropriate response to his misdemeanors. The immigration laws desperately need overhauling so that criminal aliens are targeted , not guys who smoked a joint at 18.
This 4th of July it hardly seems fair that Pearse McDermott is in the fight of his life to stay in America, the greatest country on earth. He would once have been greeted with open arms. Emma Lazarus's poem badly needs a postscript. Thank goodness there are columnists like Kevin Cullen who still care about this issue. Donald Trump are you listening?