Tue, Nov 04, 2008
INCREASING NUMBERS of Irish people are being sent home from the United States due to a big rise in overall deportations.
In the New York consular area, 27 Irish people have been deported so far this year, compared to 12 for the whole of 2006. The area comprises New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and seven other states in the east and southeast of the US.
The total number of deportations of Irish people from the US is also up: in 2006, 41 were deported; in 2007, 53; and so far this year, 58 have been expelled for immigration violations, figures from the Irish consulates reveal.
The trend reflects an increase in deportations across the US. Figures from US immigration and customs enforcement, a branch of the department of homeland security, show a dramatic rise in deportations since 2001. That year there were 116,460 "removals". By October of this year, there were 349,041, an increase of more than 20 per cent from 2007.
Donald Kerwin, vice-president of programmes for the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank that studies immigration, said a variety of factors had "conspired to greatly increase the numbers of deportations".
Mr Kerwin cited greater enforcement measures, more co-ordination between the various government agencies involved in immigration, and a very contentious public debate on immigration policy, as being particularly important.
Orla Kelleher, executive director of the Aisling Irish Community Centre, which works with Irish immigrants in New York, said changes in ID requirements for internal flights meant some undocumented Irish were being picked up by authorities at airports.
Kelly Fincham, executive director of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, pointed out that prior to changes made after the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York, undocumented Irish were able to apply for a driver's licence. Now, only those with a valid social security number can do so.
Ms Fincham said this meant that undocumented Irish who were caught up in routine traffic stops and were asked for ID were forced to use their passports for identification, which would show they were in the country illegally.
Even though a violation of immigration laws is a civil rather than a criminal offence, those who await deportation are often held with common criminals. The standard waiting time in the New York consular area is four to six weeks.
In the Boston area, according to Fr John McCarthy of the Irish Pastoral Centre in that city, the detention period is usually about six weeks. Fr McCarthy said that in one case earlier this year, two men from Co Cork were detained for 12 weeks prior to their deportation.
"Most of these people who have been detained would never have been in jail before," said Sheila Gleeson, executive director of the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centres. "They are mostly young guys in their 20s who've never been in trouble."
Niall O'Dowd, chairman of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, said the rise in numbers of Irish deportations underscored the urgency of immigration reform in the US. "I see a very different emphasis by Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Foreign Minister Micheál Martin on this issue," Mr O'Dowd added. They were "fully committed to resolving it", he said.
© 2008 The Irish Times